Reading List Summary, August 2013

Mom's List
The Astronaut Wives Club (Lily Koppel)
Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH (Robert C. O'Brien)
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay (Michael Chabon)

Jack's List
The Underdogs (Mike Lupica)
Spy Codes and Ciphers (Susan K. Mitchell)
The Bloody History of Highwaymen (John Farman)
The Surprise Attack of Jabba the Puppett (Tom Angleberger)
Stargirl (Jerry Spinelli)
Lawn Boy Returns (Gary Paulsen)
Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH (Robert C. O'Brien)
The Maze of Bones: The 39 Clues (Rick Riordan)
Because of Mr. Terupt (Rob Buyea)
The Giver (Lois Lowry)

EJ's List
Never Trust a Tiger (Lari Don)
Nate the Great and the Monster Mess (Marjorie Weinman Sharmat)
Henry and Mudge Get the Cold Shivers (Cynthia Rylant)
Aggie Gets Lost (Lori Ries)
Good Dog, Aggie (Lori Ries)
Fox on the Job (James Marshall)
Frog and Friends: Outdoor Surprises (Eve Bunting)
Rose and Riley (Jane Cutler)
Some Frog! (Eve Bunting)
Cowgirl Kate and Cocoa: Partners (Erica Silverman)
Best Friends for Frances (Russell Hoban)
The Sun (Melanie Chrismer)
Sun (Lynda Sorensen)
Nate the Great and the Stolen Base (Marjorie Weinman Sharmat)
Nate the Great Goes Undercover (Marjorie Weinman Sharmat)
Nate the Great Goes Down in the Dumps (Marjorie Weinman Sharmat)
The Tortoise's Gift (Lari Don)
Nate the Great and the Big Sniff (Marjorie Weinman Sharmat)
George and Martha: Round and Round (James Marshall)
Nate the Great Stalks Stupidweed (Marjorie Weinman Sharmat)
Nate the Great Saves The King of Sweden (Marjorie Weinman Sharmat)
Freckle Juice (Judy Blume)
Henry and Mudge Under the Yellow Moon (Cynthia Rylant)
Fox on Stage (James Marshall)
Fox in Love (Edward Marshall)
Fox Outfoxed (James Marshall)

Read-aloud List
Ella Enchanted (Gail Carson Levine)
Socks (Beverly Cleary)
Uncle Peter's Amazing Chinese Wedding (Lenore Look)
We Need Mail Carriers (Lola M. Schaefer)
Princess Sylvie (Elsa Beskow)
Being Frank (Donna W. Earnhardt)
Tiger and Turtle (James Rutherford)
Experiments with Water (Salvatore Tocci)
A Good Day's Fishing (James Prosek)
Blumpoe the Grumpoe Meets Arnold the Cat (Jean Davies Okimoto)
Slippers at School (Andrew Clements)
Let's Go, Hugo! (Angela Dominguez)
Happy Birthday, Tacky! (Helen Lester)
Lunch Bunnies (Kathryn Lasky)
The Best Bike Ride Ever (James Proimos)
The New Girl...and Me (Jacqui Robbins)
My Neighbor Is a Dog (Isabel Minhos Martins)
Willie and Uncle Bill (Amy Schwartz)


You know you're desperate for a change when you hit the salon with three kids.  I'm loving the change...but of course my styling today is nowhere near as cute as she did it yesterday.  Ugh!

Giant Painting

It was the hottest afternoon we've had in a long time, but I promised the big painting project, so I was stuck.  Inspired by this post and helped along by awesome sales on acrylic paint and sheets, the kids set up the materials and set to work immediately.

The collaboration could have gone better.  Perhaps a full-sized sheet is not enough space for three strong-minded individuals to create their best mural.  In the end, they were very pleased with their work and gleefully showed off their zoo to several neighbors and their dad.

They came inside paint-covered and soaked from washing "their hands" in the hose, but it didn't take too long to wash off the remains of the flamingo, lion, panda, snake, giraffe, trees and flowers.

Lazy Day

We're having a lazy day around here with little bits of summer fun splashed into a lot of lazy.  Sundials and sun prints got started this morning, and chalk self-portraits are on the agenda for this afternoon.  I'm hoping to spend some time stitching outside while the little ladies read to me and Jack does some soccer/saxophone practice time.

The big buzz around this house is that we had frozen yogurt for lunch and the kids are making our family dinner tonight.  Nothing fancy, but they planned it all.  And I know that I'll probably be doing a lot of it anyway, but it's Friday night so I won't feel too bad about a glass of wine while I supervise.

This weekend's schedule is a little crazy, but I'm hoping to get some time to start widdling away at my to do list.  I need to make a shrug for EJ's school photo outfit, plan an almost 10-year-old's birthday party (around a "not so set in stone" soccer schedule), get the girls' activities scheduled, cut a lot of tulle for the girls' room, maybe paint, get the additional items on EJ's new school supply list (new teacher, random last-minute new list), etc.

I did manage to finally take the kids to get their Backpack Buddies from Grandma.  And yes, Livie got two of the same for her backpack, one for home.

10 more days of summer...

Get Outside!

The weather is finally semi-summerish again, so we've been trying to get out in it as much as possible! Baseball games (without jackets), soccer practice, even chores are so much better when it's warm.

There is currently a ton of construction in our area which makes my Mom not want to navigate her way to our area.  She did send us her zoo coupons though and so the kids spent the afternoon doing all the touristy things at the zoo including the train, the carousel and touching stingrays.

We also went to see the annual Chalk Art Fest at an area mall this weekend.  These were some of our favorites:

When we got home, the girls begged Matt to draw them some squares in the driveway so they could create their own chalk art.  This is Livie playing outside on a sunny day (near a tree) and EJ's version of Hello Kitty.

We have a little less than two weeks of summer left.  I've got my fingers crossed that the summer weather holds on for us!

Glitter Maps ... Girls' Room Redo 2

I love the look of maps and find myself pinning t-shirts, wall art, prints, DIYs featuring map designs quite a bit.  So, last week when I ran into this tutorial on The Effortless Chic, I became obsessed with making something to add to the girls' bedroom walls.

We headed into the craft store with every intention of following the rules of the tutorial (we even had glitter in hand), but then my girls spotted this...

And I realized how much easier it would be to use pre-glittered paper...and we walked out of the craft store with a 12x12 sheet of paper and some heart stickers.  The longest part of this project was finding the map outlines (very easy), sizing, printing and cutting them out.

I found some frames in the basement (previously used in Jack's toddler room) and cut white cardstock for the background.  Then cut the state of Wisconsin and country of Guatemala out of the glitter paper and attached it to the cardstock with hot glue.  I hot glued the heart sticker (each girl's birthplace) with hot glue as well to be sure it would stay on the glitter permanently.  I decided to not use the glass in the frames to show off the texture (I ended up putting it behind the cardstock for support) of the glitter paper.

Best parts of this project:
-low cost (maybe $2 total in new supplies)
-I didn't burn myself with the hot glue gun (never happens)
-the girls have some fun bling for their walls (EJ's favorite color is glitter/sequins)

With this project completed, there is just one more item to make for their wall art (obviously, it has something to do with those hoops), so I thought I'd give a little sneak peek of what we're planning to use.
{Dream Big prints from The Dreamy Giraffe, photos by Ticklebugs Photography}

To see more Girls' Room Redo Posts, click here...

Cork and Duct Tape ... Girls' Room Redo 1

These lovely girls are getting their room refreshed.  Nothing major is getting changed (beds and bed linens are remaining the same), but the girls mentioned that parts of their room were still kind of babyish.  We agreed and so we're making it over...DIY-style.  Which means it will be done in baby steps.

Our first project involved the opposite side of their room.  As you can see, the girls have sloped ceilings on either side of the room.  One side hold their beds and the other has their closet-space.  Above the closets is a shelf and a weird flat vertical space.  Our project changed it from the top (before) to the bottom (after).

All it took was a little cork and duct tape...and a hack saw.  I think you can see why we have the cheap dining room table...the kids' eating/spilling habits and my weird crafting habits. I took rolls of cork contact paper and hacked them down to 10" tall (so I have three 8" rolls remaining if anyone needs them) and then cut them to length, so there were three even strips to fit the width of the closets.

Upstairs we removed the "baby" alphabet cards and were left with this loveliness (and the reason we need a fix for this space)...mirror tile!

Jack helped me up and the cork went up quite easily.  To cover the seams and hide the not perfectly matching edges, we used pink leopard print duct tape (chosen by Liv and EJ, of course).

Then we put all their stuff back up.  It's a lot...they may be hoarders.  We are probably going to weed things down a bit, but the quetzal is staying put!

Step by step without all the tchotchkes...

It's not perfect, but it's been deemed "big girl" by two little ladies in this household.

To see more Girls' Room Redo Posts, click here...

Shopping for Others

Last week we spent the better part of the afternoon at our amazing Children's Hospital.  Livie had been having eye problems and we were sent to the specialist to figure things out (more allergy trouble it seems).  We are extremely lucky to live so close to one of the best hospitals for kids in the country...just a few miles away.  We've spent lots of time in it's urgent care, two of our kids have had surgeries there, and I can't begin to tell you how thankful I am for everything they did for my niece, so...we try to give back every summer and this appointment seemed like the perfect time to do it.

The kids had a $10 limit and a wish list from the hospital.  They made their choices based on things they would like to play with themselves and I think they chose some great things for the kids at the hospital.

They had a lot of fun shopping and trying to pick the best items.  The also really enjoyed delivering the bags.  EJ asked if I thought kids had already gotten their donations when we left the doctor's office.  I told her it might be a little too quick for that to have happened.
{my annual blurry delivery photo}

I think that having the kids shop for their own donation items really makes a connection to the donation.  Sometimes we give them the money (as in this case) and sometimes they use their own money (as they did with a recent school supply drive).  It is best to look at the organizations website before you shop to determine what items are most needed and also items that should not be donated.  We always head out with a "wanted" list and choose from there.

Shopping/Donation ideas:
-local hospital
-humane society
-food pantry
-school supplies
-homeless/family shelter

A Gift for Elizabeth the Sequel

I have a new niece (unofficial, but BFF babies count, right?) and given that she is an Elizabeth/EJ, it is difficult to refer to her in this house without confusion.  Hence, she has been dubbed "EJ the Sequel" by EJ the first.  At any rate, I set to work on a handmade gift for her this Spring, but she wasn't due to arrive until early July, so I got behind when summer vacation arrived.  Well, she arrived super early (5 weeks early) and my gift ended up being super late (actually 5 weeks past her due date, so I have no excuse)!  Hopefully they still love me.

I started with the tiny little mary jane shoes which I absolutely adore.  Something about tiny baby shoes...big "ohh, ahh" factor there, right?  I pinned this pattern from Whistle & Ivy ages ago and knew I was going to make them as soon as Julie told me to expect a girl.  I made Elizabeth's brother, Mikey, his own set of baby shoes, so she needed some as well.  They were super easy to make and I love their tiny size.

Next up was the blanket.  I wanted to make something pretty, but also durable.  I wanted it to be useful now (and beautiful), but also something that could grow into a kid's favorite blanket.  Basically, I over-thought it and wasted lots of my time (shocker, right?).  Take one (left) was too intricate & putsy (squares to attach as you go) and take two (right) was beautiful but super heavy.  It felt all wrong for a summer baby.

In the end, I went back to a pattern I had bookmarked on the Lion Brand Yarn years ago.  It seemed perfect as it is named Little Girls' Favorite Throw.  It has a simple repeating pattern that was perfect for me to work on with all three kids home (the perfect thing to keep my hands busy while being read to by EJ).  I love the soft texture (without big gaping holes for little fingers to get caught in) and I added a scallop edging to soften and girlie it up a bit.  It was light, but I liked cuddling up with it while I was working because it's soft and cozy too.

Last up was this little blanket bunny (pattern here).  The bunny was easy to complete.  The blanket seemed off-center, so I restarted it a few times but finally gave up and it ended up just fine.  I guess I should have just trusted the pattern.  I also worried that the eyes and nose I added with yarn might be a little more scary, than friendly, but I've been assured otherwise.

I really enjoyed working on this gift.  It was great to do some fun crochet again and I'm dying to start a new project (but my girls have me working on some non-crochet projects first).

Chairs and Curtains

The dining room chairs are finally finished and I love the pop of fun color between the wood of the table and the wood floors.  We had some issues with the staple gun being strong enough, but that gave my claw hand (from removing staples) time to recover before we moved to recovering.  They definitely aren't perfect, but they are 5000 times better than the old fabric.

It's no longer ripped, it's already been spilled on, but it's much more us!

So, now we have a little question for you.  I still have not gotten window treatments for the big window in our kitchen.  I think I'd like to have long ones like these made (I am not handy with the sewing machine) and I love how the pattern of the chair fabric goes with the color of the kitchen.  In fact, I really like it...but I'm not sure about it being matchy-matchy with the dining room.  And Matt really hates the idea of using the same fabric (we are not matchy-matchy kinds of people), but I love the look of the bold pattern in our very solid kitchen (dark cabinets, stainless appliances, green walls, white marble counters).  What do you think???
{thank you to my lovely assistant for standing on the counter and stretching her little arms for this pic}

Life Lessons and Help from the Interwebs

In the last two weeks, our oldest two have learned to ride a bike.  Yes, Jack did not know how to ride a bike.  Back when he should have learned, I had a new baby, a two-year-old and Matt was transitioning from a contract position (with a huge commute) back to his previous job.  Jack totally fell through the cracks.  He also never really rode his bike.  EJ has put in miles and miles on those training wheels, but Jack never did.  And then he got older and stuck in his head, and we thought it might never happen. When Matt told him that this summer was it and he was going to learn to ride, he was not on board! That being said, since he started riding, he has ridden every day and I've honestly forgotten that he just learned.

As with our shoe-tying experience, we knew we needed some outside help on this one and who ebtter to ask than the Internet?  We found this method and it was so helpful!  Jack took about 3 times out (about 30-45 minutes each) to get it completely on his own and then another mini-session on braking and coasting (remember, he never rode on training wheels, so it was like starting from scratch).  EJ took two 30 minute sessions and she took off on her own without even knowing it.  The challenge with her on this (and most things) is getting her to continue to feel confident.  She is doing awesome, she just doesn't believe it herself.

Olivia has been learning to read this summer and again, I went to the Internet for help.  This time from a blog friend's recommendation of this book (clearly, I'm using the older edition from the library as this is my last child).  Why didn't I know about this book with the other two????  It is so much easier this way!  It's about 20 minutes a day and incorporates sounds and words and then short passages that all build on each other.  By lesson 30, I would say that Livie was officially a reader.  We're about halfway through and I could easily stop and just work with books from this point on, but I'm planning to stick with it.  The format is quick and predictable (so Liv knows what to expect each day) but if we finish the book, her progress will be kind of crazy.  Best part of this book was that it helped us make the jump from a girl who knew all her letter sounds but could not blend them into words, into a girl who could read. I'm sure I'll recommend this book in the future as I know I would use it again (if I had more kids, that is).

And finally, this weekend I had my own personal life lesson and it has to do with mosquito bites.  Seriously, those bugs love me...always have!  Matt & I went to a party in a friend's backyard on Friday.  As it started getting dark, we were standing on the deck (fire going not too far away) and all of the sudden I felt mosquitos biting my feet.  We were only outside for about 10 more minutes before everyone bailed for inside the house, but I walked away with about 25 bites on my feet alone.  I woke up Sunday itching like a crazy person (why the 24 delay, I have no idea).  I have tried a lot of things in my years of bug bites & the only thing I have ever found that works is Rhuli Gel (but I can't find that anymore).  Well, it was 4am, I was hurting, and I needed to find something already in the house...Internet, here I come.  So, I am now a firm believer in making a paste of baking soda & a little water and coating your bug bites with it.  I have noticed the swelling going down and my feet look semi-ridiculous (coated in a weird white powder) but it buys me about 4-5 hours of itch-free/pain-free time.  I am sold!

So, thank you Interweb!  I don't know how I'd make it without you!

Punk Wig (Awesome Book)

We read the book, Punk Wig, this week and had to share how much we loved it!  EJ read Aggie the Brave, and fell in love with Aggie and Ben and their silly adventures.  In my search for all books written by Lori Ries we found Punk Wig.  We were very lucky to happen upon such a great book.

Punk Wig is the story of a little boy and his mom who is undergoing chemotherapy.  She loses her hair and they head out to buy her a wig.  They buy the punk's spikey, it's bright orange, it's fun!  I really love how the book treats both the hard days and the good ones for both the mom and the boy.  It discusses a very scary subject for kids and without discounting the tough times, shows that the person you love is still who they have always been, just sick.  They still want to have fun with you and have fun while owning their a leather jacket and a punk wig.

Both girls loved this book, so I really do think it's appropriate for all ages.  My kids really enjoyed reading it and I imagine it would be great for a kid whose family is dealing with cancer.

Reading List Summary, July 2013

Mom's List
Dad Is Fat (Jim Gaffigan)
The Help (Kathryn Stockett)

Jack's List
The One and Only Ivan (Katherine Applegate)
Showoff (Gordon Korman)
Doctor Proctor's Fart Powder (Jo Nesbo)
Framed (Gordon Korman)
The View From Saturday (E. L. Konigsburg)
Hydrology: The Study of Water (Christine Taylor-Butler)
That's Gross! (Crispin Boyer)
The Candymakers (Wendy Mass)
Television: You Make It Work (George Coulter)
Spy Technology (Ron Fridell)
Earth (Donna Walsh Shepherd)
How We See Things (Brian Knapp)
Liar & Spy (Rebecca Stead)

EJ's List
The Trip and Other Sophie and Gussie Stories (Marjorie Weinman Sharmat)
Penrod's Picture (Mary Blount Christian)
Mitchell Is Moving (Marjorie Weinman Sharmat)
Nate the Great (Marjorie Weinman Sharmat)
From Caterpillar to Moth (Jan Kottke)
Nate the Great and the Pillowcase (Marjorie Weinman Sharmat)
From Tadpole to Frog (Jan Kottke)
From Seed to Dandelion (Jan Kottke)
I Like Cheese (Robin Pickering)
Nate the Great: San Francisco Detective (Marjorie Weinman Sharmat)
It Could Still Be a Cat (Allan Fowler)
I Like Ice Cream (Robin Pickering)
A Snake Mistake (Mavis Smith)
George and Martha (James Marshall)
The Rainbow and You (E.C. Krupp)
Young Cam Jansen and the Lost Tooth (David A. Adler)
Nate the Great and the Lost List (Marjorie Weinman Sharmat)
All the Colors of the Rainbow (Allan Fowler)
Aggie the Brave (Lois Ries)
Mice At Bat (Kelly Oechsli)
Young Cam Jansen and the Molly Shoe Mystery (David A. Adler)
George and Martha: The Best of Friends (James Marshall)
Aggie and Ben: Three Stories (Lori Ries)

Read-aloud List
A Song for Lorkie (Dean Bowen)
Being Active (Mari C. Schuh)
Building Our House (Jonathan Bean)
Squircle (Andrea Skyberg)
Who's in the Bathroom? (Jeanne Willis)
In Lucia's Neighborhood (Pat Shewchuk)
Are the Dinosaurs Dead, Dad? (Julie Middleton)
What Grandmas Can't Do (Douglas Wood)
The Doghouse (Jan Thomas)
A Birthday for Cow! (Jan Thomas)
Recycle Every Day! (Nancy Elizabeth Wallace)
Chicken Soup (Jean Van Leeuwen)
Eggday (Joyce Dunbar)
Ten Little Caterpillars (Bill Martin Jr)
Dear Mrs. LaRue: Letters from Obedience School (Mark Teague)
Little Chicken's Big Day (Katie Davis)
Is There Really a Human Race? (Jamie Lee Curtis)
Fill It Up! All About Service Stations (Gail Gibbons)
All About Light (Lisa Trumbauer)
It's All About Me-ow (Hudson Talbott)
What Is Gravity? (Lisa Trumbauer)
First Peas to the Table (Susan Grigsby)
The Reader (Amy Hest)
Out and About at the Fire Station (Muriel L. Dubois)
Mirror, Mirror (Allan Fowler)
Nature's Children: Butterflies (Amanda Harman)
Odd Dog (Claudia Boldt)
My, Oh My- A Butterfly!: All About Butterflies (Tish Rabe)
The Butterfly Garden (Else Holmelund Minarik)
Rainbow Stew (Cathryn Falwell)
In the Tree House (Andrew Larsen)
Punk Wig (Lori Ries)
Dragons Love Tacos (Adam Rubin)
Oh! If Only... (Michael Foreman)