KIDS BOOK REVIEW: Fancy Nancy: Aspiring Artist by Jane O’Connor

fancy_nancy_aspiringartistBook: Fancy Nancy: Aspiring Artist

Genre: Children

After our first encounter with Fancy Nancy at the beginning of the summer, her exploits rapidly became a favorite with my Sophiapea.  In this particular story, Fancy Nancy (“Fandy Dandy” if you’re two) discovers that there is art all around her and she can draw it if she tries.

These books are just adorable, but there are several things I specifically like.

Firstly, the vocabulary.  New words are incorporated in the story either in easy-to-understand context or with a brief definition within the story.  I love it, and Sophiapea is coming out with all manner of precocious vocabulary skills.

Secondly, the illustrations.  They are whimsical and fun, and there are scads of details to discuss when you ire of reading the book for the 400th time.

Thirdly, the morals.  Most of the stories end with Nancy learning a new way to be polite or gracious, and those lessons are some of the most important things for kids to learn young.

Definitely check this series out!

My review: 4 out of 5 stars

KIDS BOOK REVIEW: Mind Your Manners, B. B. Wolf! By Judy Sierra

mind_your_manners_bbBook:  Mind Your Manners, B. B. Wolf by Judy Sierra

 

Genre: Children

B. B. Wolf is invited to a tea party, and since he loves cookies and cookies are generally served at tea parties, he decides to go–but not before getting etiquette advice from his friend.  “Sip your tea and never slurp.  Say “Excuse Me” if you burp.”

 

This is easily Sophiapea’s favorite from our current stash of library books. That is both good and bad.  On the one hand, I’m thrilled that she loves books.  On the other, there are only so many times one can reread the same book and maintain a perfunctory level of sanity.  Nonetheless, we’ve read this book enough in the last couple weeks that we both know B. B. Wolf’s song and belt it out like we’re auditioning for American Idol.

This is another “why the villain isn’t really bad, just misunderstood” book, but it’s cute.

We’re probably going to look up more B. B. Wolf books, just to see if they have more songs.

Our rating: 4 out of 5 stars

 

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KIDS BOOK REVIEW: Once Upon A Time, The End by Geoffrey Kloske

once_upon_a_bedtimeBook: Once Upon A Time, the End (asleep in 60 seconds) by Geoffrey Kloske

Genre: Children’s

Once upon a time there was a grown-up looking for a book with very short bedtime stories for a kid who wouldn’t go to sleep. So the grown-up picked up this book and read this flap and took the book home and read it out loud and they both laughed and fell fast asleep fast. Just like you. The end.

What parent wouldn’t pick up a book with that description on the book flap? Not this one.  I picked this book up at the library, read the front flap, laughed out loud, and didn’t look any farther because it was freaking hilarious.  After I got it home, I came to the sad realization that my 2-year-old (hitherto referred to as Sophiapea) did not find the highly abbreviated version of bedtime stories nearly as entertaining as I did.

I laughed and laughed, and she sat there, looking at me like I was an idiot.  If it was just up to me, I’d rate the book 5 stars, but since kids books should generally be approved of by actual children, I’ll have to knock it down a peg.

My rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Trials of a SAHM

I hate the term Stay-At-Home-Mom.  It sounds passive and weak–everything that actually being a Stay-At-Home-Mom isn’t.  We need a better term, people.  Something that makes us out to be the bad-asses that we are, instead of continually reviving the idea that all mom’s do at home is watch soap operas and drink wine.  At the very least, this term should acknowledge that being at home with kids is WORK.

I’ve been thinking about this for a while now.  In the past year I’ve had to fill out a bunch of paperwork for medical and dental stuff and setting up utilities–all the things you do when you move–and every single freaking time there’s that question “What company do you work for?”  I just want to throw the entire pile of paper across the room.  But I don’t, because then I would have to pick it up.

I know, I know–between the mother’s day commercials and every other mommy blogger on the block, you say of course motherhood is appreciated.  But it doesn’t feel very appreciated on a day-to-day basis.  Half the time it doesn’t even feel acknowledged.  The problem is that when you’re doing it, nobody has any reason to notice it.  My toddler sure isn’t going to notice that her clothes are always clean and put away (until she pulls them ALL out of her closet, anyways, but hey, that’s okay, because they always end up BACK in her closet eventually–one of the great mysteries of all time).  The baby doesn’t notice that you’re constantly wiping spit-up off of every toy he pukes on so that it doesn’t get crusty and gross, or the fact that you’ve washed the bouncy seat cover at least 5 times in the last month because he keeps pooping out the back of his diaper.  You just run around like a maniac cleaning up after people, kissing knees, making food, soothing tantrums, and trying to stop your kid from scribbling on the walls of your rental home with the crayola markers that you now know are not nearly as washable as they’re marketed to be.  And then, when you finally sit down to do some paperwork that has to be done, you’re expected to write “unemployed” or “stay-at-home-mom”.  

I know, I know, some of you moms do have outside jobs too.  Good for you.  I’m not debating who works more or has the harder job or anything like that.  I’m just saying moms who stay at home DO work, and I’m sick of having to pretend like we don’t.  I’m tired of stammering some “Well, I DO, but I’m a stay-at-home-mom.” to every question about my working status.  It shouldn’t feel like an excuse, or some lame add-on.  I’m a MOM.  I work my tush off picking up the same toys, doing the same laundry, making food at the same times, doing the dishes the same way every single day.  I don’t get off work in the evening, I don’t get an hour to go buy lunch and eat in peace and quiet, and I either work on the weekend, or spend the entire week trying to catch up from not working on the weekend because the entire house WILL fall apart in two days.

This post obviously isn’t going to solve anything.  It’s just my rant.  It’s the rant of every mom out there who works days, nights, and weekends, doing the same things over and over and over and over and over and then still goes ahead and checks the stupid unemployed box on the form because it’s easier than trying to check the employed box, and come up with a name for what she does.  She doesn’t have time for that.  Her kid just ran off with the markers and is either helping herself to a bath or splashing in the toilet.  Either way, the bathroom needs to be mopped up.

So come on.  We need a better name.  Something awesome and empowering, and something that will banish the soap operas and wine definition of “stay-at-home-mom” forever.

The Mommy Groove

This week has been fantastic. I felt like I finally had a groove going where I was balancing the kids, the housework, my editing, and some studying and nothing was particularly neglected or all-encompassing. For me at least, I think it boils down to having a good routine and sticking to it. For example, every morning I get up at 5:30 or a little earlier with my Superman, and we have our coffee (which is already brewed, thanks to the modern miracle of timed coffeepots). I drink my coffee, make my to-do list for the day, and take a little quiet time to read and pray that I’ll have another decent day of mothering and not screw the kids up too badly. Around 6:15, I make a quick breakfast, and Sophia usually gets up around then, so the next 45 minutes are spent taking care of her and deciding what workout I’m going to so. Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays are heavy cardio, so I find some intense HIIT workout by Fitness Blender and go to town. If it’s Tuesday, Thursday, or Saturday, I do power yoga. Exercise happens from 7-8. And then I usually feel ready to conquer the world–or at least the messy living room and piles of laundry. When I have that morning routine, my day rocks.
And when that groove is thrown off, I want to throw everything out the window (can you tell we just watched The Emperor’s New Groove this week?!)
This morning I got up, and the coffee wasn’t done because I didn’t get the dishes done last night. The dishes weren’t done so it was difficult to rinse out the coffee pot and throw out the grounds. Even after I got it started, I had to WAIT 15 minutes for my coffee. Sophiapea woke up before I was even sitting down drinking it, and as if that wasn’t groove-throwing enough, K-man woke up before I finished my yoga hour.
Yes. Groove is officially off for today. So today will be spent running around hills (the house) and falling down mountain crevices (okay, a comparison is eluding me on that one) and trying to find my groove again.

Please, God, let it be at the bottom of the coffee pot.

How Do I Love Thee- Parenthood style

(This was a joint collaboration on the part of my superman and myself. He started it, jokingly, I added a couple lines and posted it here. We really do love our kids 😉 )

I love thee like a morning, that you’re not awake. 
I love thee like a diaper, that thou didst not poop in. 
I love thee like a little girl, that actually goes to bed when she is told.
I love thee like a trip to the library, without a tantrum when we must depart. 
Oh yes, sweet toddler, I love thee. 

I love thee like the sound of silence, when thou hast gone to bed. 
I love thee like the peaceful cup of coffee and reading the news before thou awakes. 
I love thee like the moon–all the way to it and back. 
Oh yes, Sophia my sweet, I love thee. 

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Kids Book Reviews ~ Library Haul #2

Throughout this summer, Sophiapea and I are participating in our library’s summer reading program.  That doesn’t really change anything about our reading habits, except that there are incentive prizes, and who doesn’t like incentive prizes?  Anyways, since we’re reading so much now anyways, I thought it was high time that I introduce a weekly post about the kids books we’ve read from the library.  Obviously, these aren’t the only books we read, I just want to make a note of the kids’ books that I end up liking, and which ones I never, ever want to read again.

what_does_the_fox_sayFirst up this week is “What Does the Fox Say?” By Ylvis

As you may be guessing, this is just an illustrated version of the Youtube hit song.  I thought it was tremendous fun, both reading and singing. (Who knows what all the words are now?!  This girl…)  Fun fact that is probably instigating a healthy amount of my interest in this book: We taught Sophia to say “Ding, ding, ding” when we ask her what the fox says. I love having kids! 😀

The illustrations were kind of quirky, but entertaining.  Like the song.

My rating: 5 out of 5 stars

 

 

 

 

 

crafty_chloeSecondly, we have Crafty Chloe by Kelly DiPuccio

This was pretty cute.  It’s all about a little girl creating a present for her friend, and I like the idea of encouraging kids to make presents rather than having to buy everything.  Sophia got it into her head that Chloe was a princess, and so we had to read the “princess” book several hundred times.  I didn’t completely hate it by the time we took it back to the library, so that is always a bonus.  It had some cute dialogue, and I think it stretched Sophia’s attention span, which is always a good thing!

The illustrations were great too, and there were plenty of little things to discuss in the pictures. Dogs, stars, and LOTS of colors.

 

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

 

 

 

 

find_the_constellationsFind the Constellations by H. A. Rey was fantastic.  It ended up being a little beyond Sophia, but it was such an amazing, educational book, that I’ve added it to a list of books that I actually want to buy when my kiddos are a little bit older.  It had great illustrations of the constellations, tips on finding them in the night sky, and short quizzes throughout the book.  I think it will be a fun summer “class” in a couple more years.

My rating: 5 out of 5 stars

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

its_a_firefly_nightIt’s a Firefly Night by Dianne Ochiltree was another cute one.  It made me really nostalgic, because I remember loving the fireflies and being so excited the first night they came out in summertime.  It makes me a little bit sad that there don’t seem to be any fireflies in Washington State, but we’ll be back in the south in a few years, Lord willing, and there will be plenty of time to show the kids the wonder of fireflies.  Plus, it rhymes.  I love kids books that rhyme!

My rating: 4 out 5 stars

This Moment

This moment.  This bleary-eyed, early morning moment, is only here once.

It’s easy to forget, and settle into a routine of wishing.  Sometimes I wish the baby would sleep through the night.   I really wish Sophiapea would get through her latest ‘difficult toddler’ phase. Somehow I wish there was both more and less time in the day.

But this moment, this coffee-fueled, quiet moment of morning is only here once.

Sophia will be happy and sweet today, for the most part.  She will also throw tantrums that try my soul, and make short work of re-messying everything I clean.  Klaus will win me with his smiles, and make it difficult to deal effectively with Sophia in her dramatic moments by his seemingly incessant need to eat.  But the thing I’m going to remember–the thought fueling my reset button–is that this moment, that is consumed with childhood and babies, is only here once.

I’m going to look into the chocolate brown eyes of my toddler and remember that she is only two before I snap at her about something inconsequential.  Because I won’t remember these heavy-lidded, exhaustion-toned mornings in a few more years–I’ll remember the sweet moments with my babies

So, my now-cold cup of coffee is lifted in toast to this morning.  Here’s to coloring, dancing music, and beautiful princesses.  Here’s to the weird little things Sophiapea fixates on until I verbally acknowledge her fascination.  Here’s to the sweet warmth of a snuggly baby, and the smiles that greet me.  Here’s to the piles of dirty laundry and the messy floors.

This sweet, chaotic, kind of sticky, definitely sleepy moment is only here once.

 

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BOOK REVIEW: The Maze Runner by James Dashner

mazerunnerBook: The Maze Runner by James Dashner

Genre: YA, Dystopian

Description (from goodreads) “If you ain’t scared, you ain’t human.” 

When Thomas wakes up in the lift, the only thing he can remember is his name. He’s surrounded by strangers–boys whose memories are also gone.

Outside the towering stone walls that surround the Glade is a limitless, ever-changing maze. It’s the only way out–and no one’s ever made it through alive.

Then a girl arrives. The first girl ever. And the message she delivers is terrifying.

 

I have generally been a big fan of the YA dystopian society genre.  Series like The Hunger Games and Divergent really opened my reading horizons to include just about any YA books that look like they might exist in a dystopian setting.  For some reason though, I had a really hard time getting into The Maze Runner.  I probably wouldn’t have finished it, except that several people in an online book group recommended sticking it out.  Kind of against my better judgement, I kept reading and just prayed that the story would pick up and I wouldn’t feel like I’d wasted a couple hours of rare free time.  They were right.  The story did pick up.  It just took me a while to get into the writing style, on top of the fact that it seemed like the story was just free-floating down a river for ages.  You knew the river was supposed to end in a waterfall, but there was no way of knowing when the calm, steady flow of water was about to disappear off a precipice.

I did learn something from this book.  Namely, I despise made-up profanity almost as much as I despise normal profanity in writing.  I understand that Dashner was probably making some kind of point, either about how ridiculous it is that we assign different levels of good/evil to completely arbitrary words, or possibly insinuating that people will just always find a way to curse, whether they remember the s-word or the f-word, or not.  Either way, my skin crawled each time I read one of those words.

All things considered, I’m glad I read it.  I also read the second book, and have the third book out from the library right now, so stay tuned for my reviews of The Scorch Trials and The Death Cure.

My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

KIDS BOOK REVIEW: Oh No, Gotta Go! By Susan Middleton Elya

oh_no_gotta_goBook: Oh No, Gotta Go! by Susan Middleton Elya

Genre: Children’s, Bilingual

 

Oh No, Gotta Go! Is the hilarious and entirely believable tale of a car ride and a child who realizes, shortly after the departure, that she has to go.  Parents everywhere understand the fear that arises when this phrase pops up during a roadtrip–usually right after you pass the last exit for two hundred miles.  Oy.  Gives me cold chills just thinking about it.  Anyways, this is a book, so it’s not scary.

What makes this book double the fun is that it is bilingual.  What makes this book triple the fun is that it isn’t boring bilingual.  You know the type… you have to read one page in English, and then the same page again in Spanish.  Nothing exactly wrong with that, except that it is incredibly difficult to coax the average toddler who does not already know Spanish into maintaining interest in the book while you stumble through a page of rudimentary Spanish words.

Oh No, Gotta Go is a riotous rhyming romp in English, with Spanish words punctuating and fitting into the rhyme no matter how horrible your Spanish accent is (you can trust me on this because mine is dreadful).  I laughed out loud while reading the book to Sophiapea.  And then my husband started listening to me read it, and he laughed out loud.  And then when I was done reading the book to Sophiapea, he started reading it again, for his own benefit.  It is one of those books that is fun to read aloud.  You can trust me on this–I have read plenty of children’s books that were not fun to read aloud, aloud.  This was a true gem.

It was good enough, funny enough, and unique enough, that I strongly suspect my daughter will find herself gifted with it at some point in the near future.  I’m such a thoughtful mother. 😛

If you have children who are of an age for picture books, this is definitely one to check out.

My rating: 5 out of 5 stars