10 Favorite Picture Books

12650814_953495164738906_1149903594043022961_nWe do a lot of reading in this house. The girls have both inherited my love for books – and already have enough books for their very own library. Because we live in a small space, we’ve started boxing up books and keeping only a select number out to read at any given time. We rotate books in and out of circulation, and if I find a book that isn’t getting much love, I’ll donate it to the Little Free Library down the street.

A has surprised us more than once with asking for a book that I’ve boxed up, so I’ve learned to only give away those that she has never read – or has clearly said she didn’t like. There are a few books that don’t ever go out of circulation, because she loves them so much. They are books that are great for reading over and over and over again – and most of the time even Mom & Dad don’t tire of them either!

There are so many great books out there that it was hard to choose just ten, but here are our top ten right now.

Madeline by Ludwig Bemelman is our number one favorite these days. We even have it on cd and listen to it in the car. It routinely gets read before bed, and lately A has been falling asleep to it pretty quickly. D calls it her kryptonite. Made into a movie and a tv show, Madeline is a favorite of kids everywhere.

Knuffle Bunny or just about anything written by Mo Willems. His books are cleverly written, and funny for both kids and adults. Knuffle Bunny is my personal favorite because of just how true the whole thing is. Poor dad takes baby Trixie to do laundry, and they end up losing the beloved Knuffle Bunny.

The Aminal by Lecia Balian. This was one of my favorites growing up, and I couldn’t wait to share it with my own kids. The pictures are simple, yet fascinating, and show the power of imagination. This is also a great story for illustrating what happens when he said she said conversations take place.

Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister is about a sparkly fish who doesn’t want to share his sparkle with the other fish in the sea. Although a simple story, there are a lot of lessons that can be learned from this one. I foresee us reading it for many many years to come.

Owl Moon by Jane Yolen. This one is best when D reads it. He makes the best owl sound, and the girls just love it when he reads it. It’s a favorite at night time, but is really good any time of the day.

Angels Watching Over Me by Julia Durango. This is one of my favorite songs from childhood, so we read parts of it and sing other parts. A likes to sing along. The pictures are especially intriguing and hold their attention for quite some time.

Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey is just so so good. About a little girl who goes blueberry picking with her mom, my girls love to make the sounds the blueberries make when they hit the pail. This is a favorite activity for our pretend play too.

Where Is Curious George?
This one is a Look and Find Book, but every single time we go to the library we end up bringing it home. A finally got her own copy for Christmas last year, and it became well loved in no time.

God Gave Us You by Lisa T. Bergren
This one makes me tear up every single time I read it. It’s the perfect book for any time of day or night. So sweet, and such a beautiful reminder of what it was like to bring home that first baby.

Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus by Mo Willems. We are huge fans of Mo Willems. His books are easy to read and are funny for kids and adults alike. This one is our absolute favorite of his, and is definitely one of our “must-read” kids books.

What are your favorite picture books these days?

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Friday Favorites

Friday Favorites
Man am I glad it’s Friday. It’s been a doozy of a week around here. Our transition to the Boston area has been filled with so many emotions – and we’ve had a difficult time adjusting to life here. Any big move is a big adjustment, especially with kids, but we have found ourselves in an apartment that was not as we anticipated. Although to the casual observer it looks quite cute and charming, we were here just a week before we discovered some things that made us pretty concerned for our health and safety. After consultation with an attorney, we asked the board of health to come do an inspection – mostly so we knew whether our concerns were valid or if we just have incredible high standards. I’ll spare you all of the many details, but it’s enough to say on top of the stress of moving a family a cross country, we have also dealt with living in an apartment that isn’t up to code and a landlord that isn’t very responsive. Today begins a new leg of the journey – we begin packing to move out and find a different apartment for a mere 3-months until we can close on this very cute house that we will be purchasing come May.

So – whew – it’s a good thing to step back and look on my favorites from the week.

Read
I came across this somewhat controversial post this week and was so glad I did. I’m not sure why we are so timid when it comes to talking about Satan, but I thought she really hit the nail on the head when it comes to motherhood. It’s so easy for Satan to get into our hearts in the mundane, every day tasks. I know for me, it’s the day-in, day-out ordinary stuff that seems to wear on me and rub me thin. I have long been a proponent of mindfulness and embracing the prayer opportunity that comes with the day-in day out stuff, but sometimes it’s just so hard to stay in that mindset … especially when you’re feeling under stress. I just love the image of sitting at the feet of Jesus while reading books on the couch.

If you’re looking for a good book to read, I put together my top ten favorites from last year. Three stand out as must reads: Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline, The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah, and Me Before You by JoJo Moyes.

Eat
We aren’t doing anything exciting in the realm of recipes these days. Winter is so hard for me when it comes to creative meal planning … even though there are lots of fresh, local options here, all I’m really craving is a big hearty salad. One night this week I made this Healthy Chicken Corn Chowder that I usually love – but by the time it was done cooking I wanted spaghetti instead. So I made two dinners that night. I was so thankful for the marinara sauce I made this summer out of tomatoes from the farm. We added some ground beef, mushrooms, red wine, and a parmesan rind and it was, by far, my favorite meal of the week!

Do
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My favorite activity this week was our spilt milk paintings. We read the book It Looked Like Spilt Milk, and then we took some white paint and made our own. The girls really loved the painting, the folding, and the attempt at identifying what it looks like. They have quickly become one of our favorite pieces of art around here.

What are you loving this week?

Top Ten Books of 2015

I read 55 books in 2015. Quite an accomplishment for a stay-at-home mom to two toddlers. I get most of my reading done during nursing the littlest, or while trying to get someone to fall asleep. I think it also helped that I gave up social media for Lent last year. It’s amazing how many books you can read if you ditch all your procrastination tools. I know we’re well into 2016, but I wanted to share my favorites with you.

519dIBQX6QL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_The Nesting Place by Myquillyn Smith
This was one of the last books I read last year, but was also one of my favorites. I picked it up earlier in the year, but never got around to reading it. When we ended up in a less-than-desirable rental after selling our house that we loved so much, I knew it was time to crack it open and see what she had to say. I was really struggling with making our apartment feel like home and she really gave me great ideas. It’s full of great advice about not second guessing yourself and doing things that will make you happy. As we look forward to purchasing a house here in the Boston area, it’s been great information to keep in mind as well.

three-many-cooks-new-bookThree Many Cooks
This was a book that I heard about through the Atlanta History Center. They bring in various authors throughout the year and one of my favorite things to do is read the books they write. I never make it to the presentations, but it has opened my eyes to several authors I’ve never heard of! This one reminded me of my own family – we lived in the kitchen growing up … and I model that same thing for my own children. I loved the stories, as well as the recipes, and it’s now on my “real books to buy” list (I read the Kindle version).

7120022819_bbeac91ac1The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook
This is my absolute favorite cookbook of all time. Even more than Weelicious (did you think that was possible?!) Her recipes require more preparation and work, but they always pay off.

All_the_Light_We_Cannot_See_(Doerr_novel)All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
I really struggled with this book at first. It’s slow to start, and is a little bit difficult to read. I’m so glad I kept at it though, because in the end, it totally paid off. It’s such a beautiful story of the goodness of people. It’s one of those “must-read in your lifetime” books.

orphan2Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline
I am not sure how I found this book … I discovered it on my Kindle one day, which likely means I got it free years ago and just never read it. This was one of the few books I gave 5 stars last year. It’s a little difficult to keep the characters straight at first, but it doesn’t take long for a good flow to happen. This is such a remarkable story of love & perseverance. The characters are relatable, and although it ends up to be a real “feel good” novel, there’s a lot of depth hidden in it. I loved every word.

The-Storyteller-by-Jodi-PicoultThe Storyteller by Jodi Picoult
I ended up reading a lot of books about Nazis right after another last year – and it was in no way planned. I’ve always been a “meh” fan of Jodi Picoult. Her stories all tend to be a little more dramatic than I’d prefer, but I thought this one was so creative. The ending completely caught me by surprise – and I love that about a book.

nightingaleThe Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
Yet another book about Nazis, but this one looks at the invasion of France – which I have never read much about. This was another 5-star read, in my opinion. I’ve read a lot of Kristin Hannah’s work – they are usually “feel good, beach read” types – but this one goes to a completely different level. I thought it was beautifully written, and it highlighted so many things about WWII that I never knew before. I loved it.

To_Kill_a_MockingbirdTo Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
I know, not a new book by any stretch of the imagination, but I re-read it and just fell in love all over again. I actually re-read it in preparation for the release of Go Set A Watchman and I’m so glad I did. I hadn’t read it since high school, and I think it has such different meaning now that I’m an adult. It’s one of those books that deserves to be pulled off the shelf again and again.

mebeforeyouMe Before You by JoJo Moyes
Whenever people ask me for a book recommendation, I always give them this one. It was my favorite book … maybe ever. I loved every single word – I got completely captured in the story, with the characters … I felt like I was falling in love. When I closed the book on it’s final pages, I had what I described as a “book hangover” … I was sure there was never going to be another book I loved as much as that one, and I absolutely did not want to read anything with any other characters in it. Moyes has come out with a sequel, and I cannot wait to read it with my book group in a month or so.

what alice forgotWhat Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty
This one is brilliant. I simply adored the characters, and I was so intrigued by the whole idea of what might happen if we woke up one day and couldn’t remember how we got to where we were. It made me appreciate little things in my life, and I vowed to take notice of those good things every single day.

What did you read and love last year?

Friday Favorites

Friday Favorites
Happy Friday! I’ve missed this little Friday Favorite feature and am so excited to bring it back to you. This week has been a whirlwind, and I am oh so glad we have made it to the end. The forecast shows snow (or maybe not) for the weekend, and the thought of being cooped up inside another day makes me cringe. I mean, I am all about bundling up and going outside when it’s cold out there – but we have discovered our girls are not huge fans of it … at least not after about 15 minutes. So by the time we walk somewhere to play, they are done with the cold and ready to walk back. I would love to be snowed in writing all weekend – but instead I’ll be pulling out all the rainy/snowy day inside activities. Maybe I’ll get some good pictures and post an update soon! In the meantime, here are a few of my favorites from the last few weeks. Continue reading

Breakfast Ice Cream

Ice Cream for BreakfastYears ago, I never ate breakfast. I’d wake up and drink coffee – sometimes grab a muffin or bagel – but usually I’d just wait until lunch. It’s a terrible habit, I know … but I just couldn’t bring myself to eat anything when I woke up.

But when I got pregnant with A, I had to eat. I would wake up starving, but usually wasn’t able to keep anything down. I soon discovered a new love of smoothies – it seemed if it was cold and full of fruit, I could sip it slowly and get some nutrients in me.

Until she was about three, A was never a big breakfast eater either. One thing we can always get her to eat, no matter the temperature or time of day, is ice cream. After several days of her begging for ice cream for breakfast, I decided I’d make a healthy version and see if it made her happy.

The verdict? She scraped the bowl clean! We’ve made this recipe (or a variation) many times in the last couple of years. I know it’s cold outside – but a little breakfast ice cream is quite possibly the best way to start your day. If you are feeling really adventurous, you could make waffles and have breakfast ice cream on top (or on the side … depending on your preference)! Continue reading

Finding Our Groove

Finding Our Groove
All of a sudden we find ourselves in the second half of January. Our first six weeks in New England have been difficult – we’ve faced a terrible cold, followed by an incredibly long bout of the norovirus. We’ve experienced much emotional heartbreak over leaving our home and we’ve been struggling with our landlord over the state of our apartment. We’ve driven around to so many little towns where we think we can afford to purchase a home, made two offers on houses – neither of which worked out, and 95% of the time we end up feeling defeated. We are still not sure what our purpose is here yet … but we are pretty damn confident God’s in control of the situation.

This moving across country thing … it’s no joke. Especially when you have a family in tow. But there have been glimpses of hope. In fact, every single time we get down and out, God seems to throw us a tiny little light. It’s as if God is saying, “Stay the course. I will reveal it to you when the time is right. Just trust me.” There’s something theologically profound about the fact that we are living this beginning part of our journey in the seasons of Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany. The season of waiting – the season of immense joy that the Messiah has come – and then the season of more waiting. Waiting for that Messiah to really show himself and God’s purpose and glory.

So the last few weeks I’ve been trying to keep my eyes open to the epiphanies. To those moments that God chooses to reveal a tiny glimpse of what might be in store for us. Continue reading

Dare …

Dare
Dare
What a bold word for this Advent season. One that I’ve been meditating on all day. It’s pretty appropriate for what I’m feeling these days. These days have been so dark and so lonely.

We had been gone just three nights when I got a text from my sister that said, “Are you loving Boston?!”

I refrained from bursting into tears as I simply replied, “We are tired and weary from traveling, but we are trying our hardest to have a good attitude.” Continue reading

Wake Up!!

Wake Up #AdventWord Day 1
I’ve been working on this opening post for weeks in my head and now that it’s time to post it, I’m at a loss for what direction to take.

Wake Up
I think of my chiropractor. How every adjustment or energy clearing makes me feel so much more alive. I’m more alert – more calm – more at peace.

Wake Up
I think of how groggy I am when one of my tinies wakes me in the morning. Almost always a lot earlier than I am ready for. My eyes don’t want to open. They climb all over me like I’m a jungle gym. How in the heck do they wake up with so much energy right away?

Wake Up
But today, as we finalize our packing and spend our last few days in our house, I am drawn over and over to this swing. This swing where a thousand memories have been made. This swing sold me this house. From the moment I saw it, and A said “Swing mama, swing,” we knew we would buy this house. And from the very first day we moved in, this swing has given us a place to wake up. Every day for two and a half years.

Continue reading

Favorite Memberships in Atlanta [With Kids]

atlanta skyline
We are getting ready to leave this great city we’ve called home for so long now. I moved to Atlanta as a young divorcee, found true love, got married, and had babies. This city has truly shaped my young adult life, and I will miss it dearly.

One of the things I’ve learned as a stay at home mom to two small children is there is a real need to get out of the house and change your focus. Everyone – kid and adult alike – needs a creative field trip now and again. Every year we invest in family memberships to some of the best places the city of Atlanta has to offer. We’re trying to use these memberships as much as possible in our last few weeks here – and I thought I’d share my list with you. If you’re looking for an original Christmas gift that will be sure to be appreciated and used, you can’t go wrong with any of these! Continue reading

Moving Chaos

IMG_4746
We leave for Boston in less than a month. 28 days to be exact. In those 28 days, we have to completely pack up everything we are taking with us, sell, donate, or throw away everything we don’t want to take, paint the entire inside of our house – including trim, have the exterior painted, fix a broken window, clean up the yard, and eat as much food out of freezer as humanly possible.

I am completely overwhelmed. And exhausted. We sold a car in preparation for our move, and since Atlanta isn’t such a very bike-friendly city, nor is it equipped with very good public transportation, the girls and I have been stuck at home for very long days. The rain, coupled with the never ending to-do list and the sense of feeling overwhelmed has made me a terrible mama lately – lots of yelling, too little crafting, and I’m craving any sense of normalcy I can find.

So today, I tried to put it all out of my mind. I threw the girls in the car to take D to work, we headed to Chick-fil-a for breakfast, and then we went to see Cat the Cat at the neighborhood library. The morning must have been tons of fun, because when we got home, both girls were ready for a nap. Instead of using the rare quietness for more packing and painting, I decided to use the time to find the normalcy I was craving. Continue reading

Interviewing Boston

Earlier this month, we took an unexpected trip to Boston. D had been in a very long interview process with Harvard University for a position somewhere in their IT Department. Please don’t ask me about details … I have no idea what he will be doing … other than it is something with networking. And the cloud. Or maybe it’s not about the cloud at all. Anyhow, when they asked him to come up for an on-site interview, we knew it was getting serious and that the entire family needed to make the trip up. We were due for a family vacation anyhow … and we had never been to Boston before. So we booked our tickets, and off we went. Continue reading

The School Decision

The School Decision
Sometimes, no matter how much you try to plan life, it always seems to throw you curve balls. We had to take an unexpected trip to Boston last week, for reasons I am not quite ready to share. We’ve been back for about 42 hours and everybody is suffering from a major travel hangover. The bed is full of laundry waiting to be put away, suitcases are stacked waiting to be stored on their shelf, the couch is full of laundry waiting to be folded, and it’s after noon and the kitchen sink is full of dishes from breakfast and lunch. The living room floor is littered with toys, because nothing seems to entertain the tinies today, no matter what I try. No one is napping. And there’s miscellaneous stuff lying around waiting to be put away from our mass unpacking that happened yesterday. Konmari Method be damned. I’d like for her to get married and have kids and THEN write a book.

But instead of tackling all the many things there are to do, today I’m choosing to do the things I love. Write. Cook. And the things the tinies love. Do the hokey-pokey a thousand times before we show each other how happy we are by clapping our hands, stomping our feet, and saying hooray. Take my art skills to the next level with drawing Angelina Ballerina. Figure out some crazy craft project to entertain them during that terrible two hours in the late afternoon before D gets home.

A few days ago, a friend of a friend posted this article about Why White Parents Won’t Choose Black Schools. I don’t think she ever imagined it would go viral … but it did. And for good reason. Continue reading