Books, Children's Books

Toddler Favorite Reads: Year 3

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Ah me how time flies. One minute I’m collecting board books to read to my babbling baby boy. The next he’s ready to waltz off to preschool.

I wave people off when they tell me those oft repeated words…

“They grow up so fast.”

But it’s true. So desperately true. And here I am, thinking of year 3. The last year before school. The year that ended only recently. The little yellow brick road of sunshine (ok there were tears and frustrations too) that comes to a halt oh so soon.

Preschool. Can you believe it?

I find it hard to believe still. Ooh boy. If you have any tips on the toddler to preschool transition, I’m all ears!

Moving on.

Here are my son J’s favorite books from year 3. Most he still asks for today 🙂

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1. My Peekaboo Fun: Shapes, Colors and Opposites, by YoYo Books

This one is a lot of fun. There are lots of flaps to look behind. The adult reads the question on each page and the answer is found under the flap.

-This one was given to us.

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2. Scuffy the Tugboat (Little Golden Book), by Gertrude Crampton

A true classic. This one is such a good one for little boys who love to go out adventuring. The artwork is lovely and the text not so long as to completely lose my son’s interest. Scuffy is an ambitious little tug boat who discovers where he is truly meant to be.

-One of my relatives found this book for cheap at an Antique Mall.

3. Truck Stop, by Anne Rockwell

Truck Stop is all about the comings and goings of a family owned truck stop “right beside the main highway heading north and south”. It goes through the motions of morning routine and describes the personalities and vehicles of all the regulars. And there is a mystery to be solved…where is Green Gus?

J loves this book because of the trucks (of course) but also because of the emphasis on the mom-dad-son relationship that I think makes J feel special.

-Free from Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library.

4. Max and the Tag-Along Moon, by Floyd Cooper

Here is one of J’s favorite bedtime books. He loooovves his Grandpa and this book helps him shift his focus from missing Grandpa to seeing the moon as a symbol of Grandpa’s love and drawing comfort from its constancy.

-Also free from Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library.

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5. Shark Attack! (DC Super Friends), by Billy Wrecks

Batman and sharks. Need I say more? We are currently in the midst of a superhero craze. And honestly who doesn’t love Batman? The storyline moves fast yet is simple enough for J to follow. Suspenseful and fun.

-A library book.

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6. The Wild West (Disney Pixar Toy Story)

This one was difficult to find a link for. I bought it at Dollar Tree. But there are a few listed on eBay currently. My kids go crazy for this book and as you can see it is well loved.

This book is based on a scene from the Toy Story movie #3 (I think). A very fast paced adventure. Can Woody and Jesse outsmart One-Eyed Bart? Who will save the orphans? And how will they escape the army of monkeys so they can defeat the Evil Dr. Porkchop??

~~~

Thus ends my series of favorite toddler books. If you want to check out year 1 and year 2, you can read about those lists here and here.

Happy reading! And at the risk of sounding like one of those annoying older moms…hold onto those babies. They do grow up so fast 😢

~Rachel

Books

Book Review: The Homemade Housewife

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Introduction

This e-book was written and published this May by Mrs. Kate Singh. Because I loved it and found it to be a valuable resource I wanted to post a review on my blog. I will share a summary, things I loved, a small critique, and little tidbits from my favorite chapters.

Summary

This book is a marvelous collection of thrifty tips and wholesome advice. The chapters cover topics like decorating, cleaning, self-care for the mama, urban farming, parenting resources, homeschooling and ideas for free fun.

About the Author

Kate Singh writes both motivational and fictional books to inspire and entertain. She currently resides in California with her family.

Visit the author’s blog here.

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Review

What I Loved…

The reasons I really enjoyed this e-book are similar to the reasons I loved 2 other books of Kate’s. (I read The Lazy and Cheap Housewife and The Funky and Frugal Housewife previously.) From the first, I saw that this book was relatable. Kate is honest about the fact that she is no Martha Stewart and doesn’t want to be. I breathed a sigh of relief. Me too.

I loved her encouraging tone that was coupled with her unique and fun style. I love things that have a different slant and this book definitely falls into that category.

But what I loved most? Her books are built around this tiny seed of an idea. This belief that I could live a full and happy life while practicing frugality. This intrigued me.

Not So Much…

I can only think of two areas for constructive criticism. They are minor things but I feel that 1) a bit less repetition and 2) a bit more organization would improve readability. The repetition increased the length of the book, which was 3,368 pages on my kindle. I loved the huge collection of all things thrifty but there was quite a bit to go through. The chapters and headings were good but sometimes there were parts that were hard to follow because of a change of topic.

My Favorite Chapters

My favorites were chapters 6 (care for the mama) and 8 (about gardening). But I also enjoyed parts of chapters 3 (food), 5 (cleaning), 9 (kids) and 10 (free fun). This book is a compilation of tips from all of Kate’s previous books so some things I had read already. But regardless of this and the fact that I’ve been practicing frugal living for 5+ years I still found quite a few new things to put into practice.

Chapter 6 is mostly about self care, which I found to be so relevant and helpful. Kate titled this chapter “Beauty for the Lady of the House and Ways to Avoid Burn Out”. There are many helpful ideas about exercise, primping, investment in hobbies, me-time breaks and ways to make homemaking easier.

I loved reading about boredom busters and ways to reduce burnout. There were ideas for staying emotionally and physically healthy and many ways to improve one’s image with little cash.

The part about self-love and pride went straight to my heart as I remembered that yes, I can still dress up and look nice even though I don’t go much of anywhere. This quote also spoke to me:

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All things gardening was covered in chapter 8. I found this particularly helpful as I had just planted my garden when I read this book in early June. I loved the tips about where to find free gardening supplies, re-growing plants and how to make compost without fancy equipment. I love gardening and saving money in this area makes me so happy. I’m learning how to get the most of my plants by dividing and regrowing them. It’s a lot of fun 🙂

And here are a few things I loved about chapters 3, 5, 9 and 10.

Chapter 3 is all about food and the kitchen. I made a mental note of the snacking tips, ways to make meals healthier and reminders of cheap and healthy ingredients. I was suprised to learn I could save money on cat food without compromising too much on quality.

Chapter 5 pertains to cleaning. It’s a challenge for me to make cleaning fun but Kate inspired me anew. I was (and am still) going through a decluttering process here at home. Kate had a lot to say about this and helped me to see it as an easier job instead of a never endingly difficult one.

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Chapter 9 reminded me of what kids really need for health and happiness. There is a lot in this chapter. Minimalist baby care and food, homeschooling help, fun kids activities, preschool ideas, help establishing a first aide kit, preventative care and ways to make birthday parties cheap and fun are all included here. Sometimes I forget how little kids really need. How much they love simple things. And how I’m killing it as a mother even though most of the time I don’t see it. 

Lastly, chapter 10 was full of great suggestions for places to go and have fun without spending much $. There were so many activities…some that we do now (like the library) and others that I hadn’t thought about in awhile (such as a picnic at the park). Some of these ideas are for the family and others are more geared towards just the mama.

Conclusion

This book is full of so much goodness. It was motivating and encouraging to read. An excellent resource for any homemaker practicing or seeking out ideas for frugal living 🙂

Check out The Homemade Housewife along with Kate’s other helpful books here. All of her books are $0.99, which I love!

~Rachel

Celebrated Authors

Remembering Thoreau: That Odd Man From Massachusetts

 

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I just noticed that yesterday, exactly 200 years ago, a man by the name of Henry David Thoreau was born.

Which is interesting, because I just finished reading a book about him. And then I started reading Walking again a few nights ago. And I wondered…

Who was he? What was he about?

He was a poet. A naturalist (he had an intense love and respect of nature), transcendentalist and abolitionist.

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If you want to learn more about transcendentalism, I recommend checking out dictionary.com, as well as this article.

Friends and fellow transcendentalists included Ralph Waldo Emerson, Amos Bronson Alcott and Louisa May Alcott (father and daughter), and Nathaniel Hawthorne. Amongst these folks his work was accepted.

But Thoreau was not always understood by his fellow man. Those who lived in his hometown of Concord, Massachusetts saw him as a loafer, didn’t think he contributed much to society.

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Which was fair enough. Because although he was a Harvard grad, he didn’t have any specific employment or job title. Although he did have some work as surveyor and handyman for a time.

But that wasn’t his passion. He loved to study nature. In Walking (published after his death) his level of detail and study of the natural world is amazing. But passion and paycheck don’t always intersect.

Enter Emerson. Emerson was a close friend who helped Thoreau further his dreams. He was the one who provided the land on which Thoreau built his famous Walden cabin. Here he could write and dream without fear or impediment.

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I am so intrigued by the life he lived here. He built a little house (only 10’x15′!) and for 2 years he had this experiment where he lived such a simple and minimalistic life. He farmed and lived off of the land. He studied nature and walked for hours each day. Man that sounds so relaxing!

His book Walden (also called Life In The Woods) covers this time period.

The remainder of his life he spent exploring parts of Maine and Canada and recording his thoughts. He saw himself as a “reporter in nature” and thought it his responsibility to observe and record what he could.

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He is also well-known for his anti-government essay entitled Civil Disobedience. This essay was sparked by the night he spent in jail for refusing to pay a poll tax. The theme is peaceful protest against blindly following unfair governmental laws and regulations. This particular work is part of the inspiration behind a few of the advocates for peace that we know today, such as Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr.

“In literature it is only the wild that attracts us. Dullness is but another name for tameness. It is the uncivilized free and wild thinking in Hamlet and the Iliad, in all the scriptures and mythologies, not learned in the schools, that delights us.”

-from Walking, by Henry David Thoreau

The abolition of slavery was likewise important to Thoreau. He wrote the essay “Slavery In Massachusetts” and the speech “A Plea For Capt. John Brown” both in defense of abolishing slavery, one of the evils of his day.

For a man obsessed with all things nature, he was surprisingly humanitarian.

I picture Thoreau as a bit of an oddball. No wife and kids, no real job, writing about things and issues that didn’t gain acceptance till after his death on May 6th, 1862.

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He was different, but he didn’t let that stop him. His differences defined him. Like many authors, his works didn’t become popular until after his death.

He was a quiet, simple man who knew what he believed and stood by it. That quiet, odd man from Massachusetts.

~Rachel


 

For further reading:

Online:

Henry David Thoreau

The Power Of Peace Thoreau, Gandhi, And King

Photographs of Walden Pond and Concord, Mass

 

Books & e-books:

Henry David Thoreau: American Naturalist, by Peter Anderson

Walking (free e-book)

Walden (free e-book)

Books, Lessons In Literature

Friendship (Is Greater Than) Politics

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Earlier this year I discovered something unexpected about a beloved book series. I was reading Anne of Avonlea and came across an interesting passage. Given certain current events that occurred at the time, my mind was primed to catch all things political. And so I read…

“Diana’s father was a Liberal, for which reason she and Anne never discussed politics. Green Gables folk had always been Conservatives.”

(Anne of Avonlea, Chapter 18)

But are they the only ones? I picked apart the series to find out. Lets start in the beginning.

Marilla and Mrs. Rachel Lynde

How about these two? Marilla and Mrs. Rachel were two very unique individuals who proved to be opposites in more than a few ways.

In Anne of Green Gables, it states that it was likely because (and in spite of) these differences that their friendship remained through the years.

In chapter 18, they attend a political meeting to see the Premier (political leader running for office). Mrs. Lynde attends purely because she was “a red-hot politician” and deemed her presence to be necessary. She went with her Conservative friend, (Marilla) even though the Premier was decidedly not on her “side”.

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But through everything, they supported each other. Death of family, loss of health, money troubles…even raising two rambunctious (ok only one was squirrelly) twins together. Friendship endures through the ages. Through life’s trials. Marilla and Mrs. Rachel were so different to start with that I can almost see them laughing and waving their hands in dismissal at the idea of politics.

Anne and Diana

Anne and Diana have one of the most iconic friendships of all time. I mean I close my eyes and I see all the crazy things they went through. All the fun and laughs. Chasing after (what they thought was) Anne’s Jersey cow, Diana getting drunk from currant wine (decidedly not cordial), jumping on Miss Josephine Barry in the spare room (by mistake of course). They also had a few times when they didn’t quite see eye-to-eye.

One such event occurs in Anne of Avonlea, chapter 18. The girls are on a trip to buy a willow-ware platter from the Copp girls, who live on Tory Road in Spencervale. On their journey, Anne asks how the Tory Road got its name. Diana gives an explanation and a jab at the Tory (Conservative) government. But Anne makes no reply. And they continue on as they always had. And Anne gets stuck in a duck house roof. And Diana stays faithfully by her side. And they get the willow-platter! And no more mention is made of politics for Anne and Diana. Life goes on.

We are more than our political views.

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Anne and Gilbert

Another duo worth noting is Anne and Gilbert. But they got married! Yes. And once they had opposing views. In a heart-to-heart talk with Matthew, Anne says she is glad that she and Matthew are Conservatives “because Gil-because some of the boys in school are Grits.” However, later in Anne’s House of Dreams, chapter 35, Gilbert is described as “an ardent Conservative”. So did he change for love? Was it a passing fancy? A means to raise Queen Anne’s ire? Perhaps we will never know 🙂 Are similar views a necessity in marriage?

More Characters

How about some of the others from Anne’s House of Dreams? Captain Jim, Cornelia and the newly married Blythes were thick as thieves and yet did not have everything in common. Captain Jim=Liberal. Cornelia=Conservative. As were the Blythes. And still they did not let their political mindset get in the way of friendship.

Many a late-night chat and playful banter did these four have. There were jokes and there was teasing. And yet their friendship was marked by a distinct absence of discord. In this day and age, I find that profound.

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Lastly, we have the unlikely couple which is Cornelia Bryant and Marshall Elliot. Cornelia is definitely Conservative. Mr. Elliot, on the other hand was so strongly Liberal that he refused to shave or cut his hair for 18 years, when his political party came back into power. I’m sure he was a sight and I guess a girl has her pride!

Cornelia’s character makes me laugh. I find it so funny that a good haircut was all that kept her from marrying Mr. Marshall Elliot. I wonder if their political differences added stress or simply a welcome contrast to their lives?

Conclusion

Reading these passages really made me think. Here in the U.S. things have not been smooth sailing on the political front. But the harsh words, the protests…the spite. Is it necessary? What happened to polite disagreement? To friendly banter? To respect?

I wish so much that we had more of that. But it starts with one. It starts with me. I have to be willing to mix with those who don’t see things as I do. To be kind. And yes even seek out friendship from those from other political groups. Food for thought.

What do you think of this approach to politics?

~Rachel

Books, Children's Books

Toddler Favorite Reads: Year 2

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Shortly after I wrote Toddler {Summer} Favorite Books: Year 1, I learned that I was pregnant. I remember being constantly exhausted until I hit the Golden Age of pregnancy (AKA the second trimester). And then, you know, shortly after it was back to exhaustion-land which seemed to stretch for quite some time until my daughter was 4 or so months old. Long live sleep. Long live naps.

It was during this 9-month time period that I devoted as much time as I could to nurturing my son. Before our baby girl made a visible appearance. Before the dance began of dividing my attention between my children.

I knew I would do my best, but deep down I also knew that a newborn would have heavy needs (read: demands). The thought of it made my heart ache, and still does.

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This list of books are 6 that we own and love. During the age of 2, they were books that I remember reading over and over. And he would still ask for them the next day!

This is for you, J. The memories tied to these books still make me smile.

 

Favorites From Year 2

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1. Hop On Pop, by Dr. Seuss

This book is a well-known favorite. The title makes me smile. I can remember reading this one as a child and how my brothers and I laughed over it. It has simple sentences throughout that help toddlers learn language and sentence structure.

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2. Oscar’s New Neighbor, by Teddy Slater Margulie (Little Golden Book)

About this time J was still in his Sesame Street phase. One night, he asked for an Elmo book. I asked if we could read this “new” Sesame Street book. From then on he loved it! It is a story about Oscar and his new neighbor, a girl grouch named Germaine. They have some interesting conversations and Oscar learns a valuable lesson. I think J really enjoyed the emotional complexity as well as the happy ending.

 

3. Jake Baked The Cake, by B.G. Hennessy

Sometimes you find a book that is a joy for parent and child. Jake Baked The Cake is that for us. It is wonderfully romantic, yet centers on Jake, the wedding cake baker, so it isn’t overly so. It has short, rhyming text and beautifully illustrated artwork.

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4. Llama Llama Red Pajama, by Anna Dewdney

Ok so this one annoys me a little bit. But J loves it and it helps us to understand each other. The Llama Llama books are a bit silly, yet always teach a valuable truth. This one is about bedtime and the balance of mama’s tasks with a child that needs “just one more thing” before bed.

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5. I Am A Rainbow, by Dolly Parton

Oh this book! He wanted to read it over and over and over! He loved books that talked about emotions. This one combines emotions with different colors. I love how each emotion is gently explained. There is an emphasis placed on positive emotions, and yet other emotions (such as sadness) are not portrayed as wrong. I think this book helps a child to understand why they feel a certain way. It helps me too. Sometimes I would forget that the little things meant a lot to him.

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6. Pup Pack Power, published by Bendon (board book)

I actually love reading this one. J started getting into Paw Patrol at this time and this book helped us learn the names of the Paw Patrol crew. Handy little reference guide 🙂

For our kids books, we’ve found that the best way to save money on books is to shop at the smaller, more obscure used bookstores as well as sales that are organized by our local library.

Two of these books we received through the Dolly Parton Imagination Library, which I heartily recommend, if you live in an area that qualifies. The program ensures your child has a free new book delivered monthly until age 5.

Library sales are awesome. Children’s books are typically the cheapest, usually running as low as 10¢. And it’s always fun to scout out different used book stores. Some of them will even offer some kind of a credit system. You can donate books you no longer need for a credit of a % off your next purchase. Kinda cool! Hope you enjoyed this volume of our favorite toddler reads. More to come in the future! (Update: 8/17/17 my last toddler favorites book list…for J…is now complete. You can read it here.)

~Rachel

Books, Children's Books

Toddler {Summer} Favorite Books: Year 1

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It hit me today. Square between the eyes. Sometimes I forget just how special my son is to me and how very much I love him.

It was a bit of a rough morning. Getting ready to go out was quite interesting. My child has a new found love of the toilet. And he did not hesitate to show it as I was shampooing my hair under the bathtub faucet…you know those moments. Sometimes I just want to shout, “I am a bona fide manager of a crazy house!” And then you clean up, the moment passes and you move on with life.

When we got back home he was grouchy. Hungry and tired. And truth be known, so was I. So we ate our lunch. Or he did. Sortof. He nibbled and I stopped eating to lay him down for a much needed nap. He wanted me to sit with him while he fell asleep. From experience I know that could take ages. So I went back to eating. He cried, which is not unusual, but typically does not last long.

Then I was filled with compassion for my dear son. Who wanted only me to comfort him. Only his mother to soothe him and love him. I left the leftovers of our lunch on the table and did something I don’t often do. I crawled into his crib. I laid next to him until he fell asleep.

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And then I realized. I don’t know much about being a mother, but I have learned two things. There are definite, no-fail ways to bond with your child when they are little. One is to crawl into their crib when they are very distressed. Another is to read to them while they sit on your lap. I don’t think there is a child in this world that doesn’t like being read to.

Reading is such a powerful, beautiful thing. Now I am a book nerd, so I’m rather partial. But you can’t argue that reading is full of goodness on so many levels.

So I would like to share some of our favorite books. And I would like to thank my local library for their summer reading program. It gives me so much motivation to read new books to Baby J.

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5 of Our Most Favorite Books

 

1. My Farm Friends by Wendell Minor has been a long time favorite. This is a board book. It gives a lot of accurate details about farm animals. Also, the wording is catchy and the artwork is beautiful.

 

2. Your Kind of Mommy by Marjorie Blain Parker is one that is so dear to me. One of those books that helps you get back to how special you are as a mommy. Really nice on those hard days! Its sweet and simple and will give you the warm fuzzies.

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3.The Berenstain Bears’ Dinosaur Dig by Jan & Mike Berenstain is a fairly new one we’ve tried but Baby J wants to read it all the time! It actually has quite a bit of text, but somehow he sits still and listens very intently. He loves dinosaurs lately so I believe this is why. Plus I love the Bearenstein Bears. It brings up a lot of childhood nostalgia. Watching the cartoons at my Grandma’s..reading all the books. And they always have positive messages in the books.

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4. The Mine-O-Saur by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen is another dinosaur book. I’m actually not too sure why J likes this one. I think the illustrations are a bit goofy. But the text rhymes a bit and it flows well. Plus J likes the part where the Mine-o-saur spills the snacks on the floor. He will always point it out and say uh-oh. The ending is really nice too. A good book for promoting sharing 🙂

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5. Here are two books but they belong in the same entry. Wow! Ocean!  and Wow! America! by Robert Neubecker are two books that have less text and more visual info. They are responsible for teaching my son the word “wow!”. The ocean book we currently are borrowing from the library. Really good one for summer. Full of lots of details to discuss and point out.

There you have it! 6 of our favorite summertime books.