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 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 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:


And then I blinked and she looked like this:


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.


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.


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? 

What I’m Into: June 2017


I swear June flew by at warp speed. This month had a little bit of everything: visiting relatives, playing cribbage and backgammon, a camping trip, swim lessons, bowling, lots of ice cream, hair cuts, summer reading, doctor’s visits, epic thunderstorms, double rainbows and more. I’m linking up with the lovely Leigh Kramer again to share some of the things I’ve been into when I wasn’t here.

Read & Reading

This month I finished two books:

10134852Meet Me At The Cupcake Cafe by Jenny ColganFinished 6/7 – Another great story by Jenny Colgan, who is quickly becoming a favorite author. This is another sweet love story set in the UK – this time the book’s heroine decides to open up a cupcake shop after losing her job and her boyfriend on the same rotten day. The book follows all the ins and outs of starting the business but also delves into the inner lives of nearly every character that our MC comes into contact with. Sometimes I liked this, other times it felt distracting from the story but on the whole I really enjoyed the book and fully plan to read more Jenny Colgan soon!


The Underground Railroad by Colson WhiteheadFinished 6/21 – This book took me awhile to get into initially but I did end up enjoying it for the most part. It’s not an easy book to read – between the rather heaviness of the subject matter and the frequent narrator changes – but it definitely held my attention once the story got going. It was hard to keep reading sometimes as the main character just could not catch a break and often the outcome looked so grim that I could barely keep going but I’m glad I stuck with it. BC

I’m nearly finished reading A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro and about halfway through reading A Circle of Quiet by Madeline L’Engle.

TV & Movies

Wonder Woman was our Big Screen Flick of the month. The whole family enjoyed this one. Between the hotness of Chris Pine, the epic girl power of Gal Gadot and the perfect blend of humor, action and heart. My favorite line of the whole movie was: “Beware the world of men, they don’t deserve you.” I kind of want to tattoo this sentiment on the hearts of all the young girls in my life, especially my own little Wonder Woman.

I Love Lucy reruns have been on constant rotation since visiting grammy and papa at the beginning of the month. My son is hooked and Hulu is very accommodating.

Beat Shazam is another show I’ve been watching with the kids. I love Jamie Foxx and the kids are always impressed when I know the songs, too. I’ve played along on the Shazam app a little and man the contestants are fast! I can never guess a song in fewer than 3 seconds which is considered slow on this show.

Jeopardy is also a common occurrence in our house. I’ve been DVRing all the episodes so that I can binge a few on slow afternoons while we wait for Dan to get home. Another opportunity to wow the kids with my random bits of knowledge.

The Handmaid’s Tale has been harder to keep up with now that the kids are home for summer. I’m an episode behind so no spoilers but I think in general OMG seems to apply to every episode. If you haven’t watched this one yet, get thee to Hulu immediately.

Rick and Morty has been the tv show before bed pick for Dan and I lately but we just finished the last episode of last season so now we are stuck waiting until the end of July for more episodes.

We really need a few new 30 minute comedies to add to our rotation. We’ve enjoyed Parks and Rec, 30 Rock, The Big Bang Theory, Modern Family, The Good Place, Futurama and the like in the past. What would you recommend next?

Cooking & Eating


I’m taking my first crack at pickling with Krissy’s recipe for easy refrigerator dill pickles at Self Proclaimed Foodie. I’m waiting for the brine to cool down as I type this – wish me luck!

This meatloaf recipe from Hello Fresh continues to be in regular rotation around these parts. I’ve somehow managed to convince my family that all credit for its deliciousness goes to me but honestly it’s just a fool proof recipe. The big secret is the tiny individual “loaves” rather than one big loaf. So easy and so delicious!


I’m minorly in love with this white Moscato from South Africa right now. Found it at the wine cellar where I pick up our weekly CSA. Might be counting the minutes until I pick up our next box of veggies. Excepting the fact that my refrigerator cannot handle any more vegetables right now.

What have you been up to lately?

Swim Lessons: Underwater Pictures and Mom-commentary


We just finished a session of swim lessons at our favorite pool. I love this place for it’s oh so small class sizes, incredible teachers and lessons that include everything from blowing bubbles underwater to every type of swim stroke you didn’t know existed. They seriously cover every aspect of swimming with detailed charts at the end of each session showing you what skills your kiddo still needs to work on.

But one of my faaaaavorite thing about the swim lessons here: their genius version of fund raising – $2 for an underwater photo of your kiddo during swim lessons. I seriously look forward to these pictures all summer.

Above and below are this year’s pictures. BB’s is only half under water, as you can see. She is kind of the world’s biggest baby about going underwater, even with goggles, especially when it’s cold. That’s our big task for this summer – getting her to be more comfortable and confident under water. Above water she can do basically anything. 🙂

MM is several levels ahead of her. After discovering a love of water slides last year his water confidence grew by leaps and bounds and now he’s working on various dives and strokes that don’t mean anything to me but have him coming back from lessons with a huge grin on his face – and really that is what it’s all about!

What are you up to this summer?

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Then and Now: Deep Questions To Ask Your Kids.

So about this time four years ago I asked the kids a bunch of super deep questions about life and shared them with you. I thought I’d ask the kids the same questions today and see how their answers changed and share my findings.

2013 | 2017

Back in 2013 the kids were about 3 1/2 and 7. Those responses are on the left just like the picture above.

Right now the kids are 7 1/2 and 11. Their responses today are on the right hand side, again, like the picture above. Got it?

What is the meaning of life?

BB: um, a sun.
MM: I don’t know, I really don’t know, ok?

BB: hmmm let’s see… god created us and wants us to be saved.
MM: What? I don’t know.

MM still has no idea and no desire to pretend he knows. He’s a realist. BB wanted to tell you GOODDDDD for just about every question but after like the fourth question I told her she needed more variety in life.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

BB: Cinderella
MM: an actor of Doctor Who

BB: I want to be a jewelry maker.
MM: um a video game tester

I’m not sure either kid has career aspirations that will allow me to live in the comfort that I’d like to become accustomed to. Oh well.

What brings you the most happiness?

BB: my brother
MM: well, my favorite thing is Doctor Who, so that’s what I would say.

BB: you (while hugging me)
MM: Skyrim

These answers pretty much sum up my life right now.

When do you feel the most loved?

BB: Sunday
MM: when I’m with everybody.

BB: Really, I ALWAYS feel the most loved.
MM: when you hug me

I’m happy to hear that my daughter feels loved on ALL the days of the week now. Also awww.

What are you afraid of?

BB: those scary birds, the scary ones and they were black…
MM: nothing really. At least I don’t think I’m afraid of anything.

BB: The dark
MM: a world without books

MM is a boy after my own heart. BB has forgotten all about the birds.

If you had one wish, what would you wish for?

BB: um, a telephone.
MM: Doctor Who to be real.

BB: That the pool in swimming lessons would be much warmer than it is.
MM: longer days

We leave for swim lessons like any minute now and clearly BB is hoping for warmer water. MM just wants a later bed time or more time to play video games. Priorities.

What is the funniest word?

BB: button… button.
MM: I don’t know…. plethora – it means a lot of something.

BB: The word “who” because sometimes it’s “who” and sometimes it’s “hoo”
MM: abdomen, I think it’s kind of funny

My kids still have no idea what funny means.

What is the hardest/easiest thing to do?

BB: a present giving up / getting excited.
MM: to make a tent upstairs / to read a chapter book

BB: swim / use my kindle
MM: social studies / creative mode minecraft

These answers are boring but accurate.

What is the best/worst thing in the world?

BB: a present with a doll in it / um… a ring.
MM: The best thing in the world? Wow – sun. / I think that is rain.

BB: my BFFs / my enemies I guess?
MM: YOU! / I don’t know.

I have no idea who my daughters enemies are but apparently they are the worst thing in the world. MM has never encountered the worst thing in the world but I guess it isn’t rain anymore.

What makes you mad?

BB: a computer (I swear she’s just looking around the office and naming things)
MM: sometimes when I don’t get my way, that’s one thing.

BB: when something is really hard and frustrating
MM: sometimes my sister storms out of the room.

I think my kids only understand anger when they are feeling it. They were totally at a loss here.

What is the meaning of love?

BB: a heart
MM: well, it means that you really like something.

BB: hope
MM: happiness

This. All of this.

If you had all the money in the world, what would you do with it?

BB: I would… buy something.
MM: Huh… I would buy a lot of things…

BB: I would buy jewelry and a bunch of dress up clothes that I love.
MM: Like infinite money?? I would buy a lot of stuff, I would buy a mansion and a dog that does not bark. I would become Tony Stark and I would have a lot of nice food.

Neither of them offered to buy me anything. I don’t know how I feel about that.

Let me know if you and your kids play along!

5 Things We’re Enjoying This Summer

Now that summer is in full swing I’ve definitely had less time to keep up with my dear old blog. I know you guys have probably been missing me so I figured I’d check in and let you know what we’ve been up to out in the real world.

  1. We’ve been keeping busy indulging in old fashioned summer fun like sidewalk chalk:


2. Visiting family back home and basically eating our way across central Massachusetts. Ice cream was had often, sugary cereals were purchased by doting grandparents and the world’s prettiest cupcake was discovered:

3. Getting hair cuts for the summer. Miss BB got the shortest hair cut she’s had in years and she’s kind of in her glory over it. I can’t stop squealing about how cute she looks either:


4. The kids have been in swim lessons all week and even the dog enjoyed some water fun, err well okay fine he went to the groomer but he was basically the happiest dog on the block riding in the back seat with the kids:


I enjoy swim lessons, too, but more in a sitting in the semi shade, curled up with a good book and enjoying some quiet time for thirty minutes:


5. Speaking of good books: Right now I’m reading A Circle of Quiet by Madeline L’Engle (fitting title, no?) which I actually started reading during swim lessons last summer and then forgot it in my beach bag all year. It’s been a happy reunion and this year I’m determined to finish it:


The kids are reading, too. We’ve been stocking up on good reads at the library and filling in our Summer Reading Bingo sheets:


Yesterday the kids picked up these summer reading lists at Chick Fil A. They are excited to fill in their next three reads so we can go back soon for free peach milkshakes!


What have you been up to this month?

5 Science Experiments and Videos to share with your kids!

My kids are officially on summer vacation and to prevent screen time overload brain mushiness, I nerded my heart out last month and concocted a summer plan of learning. It’s more of an outline than an actual concrete plan. Because each day and week of our summer will look different than the one before, I simply came up with a list of themes that will shape each week.

To decide on the themes that would most interest the kids, I had them write down things they wanted to learn more about on the whiteboard in our dining room. I noticed a lot of countries and landmarks written down with a few other topics like science experiments and astronomy. So the majority of our weeks will revolve around the wanderlust my kids seemed to inherit from me but THIS week we are learning about SCIENCE.

What does that actually mean? Well first I went to Pinterest and rounded up a handful of science experiments that I can do with the kids that are basically free and not so messy or complicated that it will end with me crying into a pile of paper towels. Things like:

mixing oil and water, making gummy worms dance, the disappearing egg shell, turning milk into plastic and making a fidget spinner using cardboard and pennies

Next I went to youtube and searched for videos of cool science experiments, creating my own playlist so that I could easily keep all my good finds organized. You can find my entire playlist here. Some of my kids’ favorites were:

My seven year old is officially hooked on the SciShow Kids video series. This video about cleaning a penny with things like ketchup or soda fascinated her.

Incredible Science is a good bet for older kids. We watched several of his videos and they have the shock and awe factor down and plenty of cool things to learn, too. My kids were particularly impressed with the shaving cream / food coloring rainstorm in a bottle.

I love the SloMo Guys – gorgeous videos that will appeal to fans of science, fans of filmography or even just fans of things blowing up in slow motion i.e. all of us. Watching a CD shatter at 170,000FPS was enjoyed by all.

So we love watching things spin and explode and since we have two young kids in the house we know all about the fidget spinner craze. What could be more cathartic than watching fidget spinners explode? This was a fun video although we had a tough time understanding their awesome accents sometimes, the video speaks for itself.

Maybe you’ve already seen this awesome video of Station Commander Chris Hadfield sharing science in space. If you haven’t, it’s definitely worth a watch. Hadfield is a pretty awesome guy and his videos are always amusing. Plus now we get to combine science and space in one video! Extra credit, right?

So how else will we round out our week of science fun? Well we’re looking for science books, tv shows and movies when we indulge in some R&R and just generally being inquisitive as we go about our days. I think you’ll find that anytime you spend a good amount of time thinking about any topic, you will find that it pops up everywhere you go.

Any other favorite science videos or experiments that we should add to our list?

Mothers Day: 5 Gift Ideas

I don’t know your mother (probably) but I’m guessing she’s the coolest person ever. If you are still trying to come up with the perfect gift idea to spoil her rotten this Mothers Day, here are some ideas to help you get started.

For your mother, who basically owns the kitchen.

61hmsSMgN1L._SL1500_I fell in love with this Stump Tea Pot with Infuser at my local coffee shop where you are given your own little 18 ounce tea pot when you order a cup of tea.

I love this pretty teal blue color – it would look so cheerful in your mother’s kitchen, don’t you think? Pair it with a box of her favorite loose leaf tea and a tea time date with her favorite child – you!

91gfW21yYfL._SL1500_Or maybe your mother is forever chopping herbs and you want to help her speed up dinner prep even when you aren’t there to lend a hand. I’ve been eyeing these herb scissors which can double as craft scissors or mail shredding scissors. Whatever you need to finely chop.

For your mother, who deserves a little bling.

il_570xN.1172098240_iy5rThis family tree necklace by LaLaCrystal would be great for moms or grandmothers. You can add up to 8 initials on a necklace so nobody gets left out. And if your family runs even larger (or a new baby joins the crew) she even sells individual charms to add to a tree.

ac750da7-548c-4ee3-a267-b50506ea1e8d--2017-0213_menu_modern-jewelry-stand_black_mid_mark-weinberg_308If necklaces are kind of your go to mother’s day present, she might like a jewelry tree to organize and display all her favorite pieces. I’ve been thinking about upgrading to a more modern sleek design like this one from Food52.

For your mother, who desperately needs new music for her commute.

a1ft9msmp3l-_sx522_The Hamilton soundtrack might be the closest I get to seeing this insanely popular musical. If you can’t afford to take mom to see it live (or if she’s already seen it and won’t stop singing the songs to you over the phone or something) then this is a nice way to bring Lin Manuel Miranda into her morning commute. Because there is nothing cooler than your mother wrapping about American history. Nothing.

51gYvSDtu2L._SS500Or maybe she’s all about that Top 40 life. All moms love Bruno Mars, okay? Because that smile. And his album is pretty much grinning ear to ear 24/7 kind of music. If your mom lives to dance in the car, this album should do the trick. Fortunately your mother is never embarrassing and you’ll totally be dancing in your seat, too.

For your mother, who would rather be reading.


Mayim Bialik just wrote a book called Girling Up that is sure to excite her. If she doesn’t love Bialik from her role on The Big Bang Theory, she probably remembers her from Blossom. Or maybe she follows her on Instagram or uses her as an example of impressive women in science. Either way, this looks like it will be awesome.

51oGYpSk+pLIf your mom is more into the classic literature scene, she’s probably as obsessed with Anne of Green Gables as I am. If she’s already worked her way through the works of L.M. Montgomery, she might like Lorilee Craker’s book, Anne of Green Gables, My Daughter and Me. “A charming and heartwarming true story for anyone who has ever longed for a place to belong.“Anne of Green Gables,” My Daughter, and Me is a witty romp through the classic novel; a visit to the magical shores of Prince Edward Island; and a poignant personal tale of love, faith, and loss.”

51Beu4ltz-L._SX388_BO1,204,203,200_If your mom is still raising littles and doesn’t have time to read an actual book sized book right now (I feel you) how about a book to read with the kids like How To Raise a Mom by Jean Reagan. This one is sure to bring a smile to her face.

Best enjoyed while curled up on the couch with all of the kids after a day spent not cooking or cleaning anything. Anything. And afterwards there should probably be wine.

For your mother, who is all about family game night.

61YjhY3mbyL._SL1000_Okay so KinderPerfect probably shouldn’t be pulled out for your actual family game night but it would be great to play with her mom friends after the kids go to bed. It’s basically Cards Against Humanity but parenting style. For your mother who never lost her wicked sense of humor.

71Wa1Wyv8kL._SL1001_Or for something a little different, how about Marrying Mr. Darcy because let’s be real, we all wanted to marry Darcy at some point right? Join your mom or mom friends and move through the initial courtship stage and the concluding proposal stage to see who marries Mr. Darcy (it might not be Lizzie!). Already own it? Did you know there is an Emma expansion!


Mommas, what do you want for Mother’s Day this year? Like besides the not cleaning or cooking thing?