My Children’s Recommended Reading List (As of 3/3/2019)

Title Author Age Range
The Gardener Sarah Stewart P
Stand Tall Molly Lou Melon Patty Lovell P
Me…Jane Patrick McDonnell P
Sandra Boynton board books Sandra Boynton P
Blueberries for Sal Robert McCloskey P
The Wind in the Willows Kenneth Grahame P
Eloise Kay Thompson P
A Chair for My Mother Ver B. Williams P
A Bear Called Paddington Michael Bond P
Grace for President Kelly DiPucchio P
Chrysanthemum Kevin Henkes P
Tar Beach Faith Ringgold P
Mirette on the High Wire Emily Arnold McCully P
Sleep Like a Tiger Mary Logue P
Extra Yarn Mac Barnett P
The Mermaid and the Shoe K.G. Campbell P
Not All Princesses Dress in Pink Jane Yolen P
Knuffle Bunny Mo Willems P
Owl Moon Jane Yolen P
The Dot Peter H. Reynolds P
And Tango Makes Three Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell P
The Invisible String Patrice Karst P
You Are Stardust Elin Kelsey P
Berestain Bears series Stan & Jan Berenstain P
The Poky Little Puppy Jannette Sebring Lowry P
Rosie Revere, Engineer Andrea Beaty P
Little Critter series Mercer Mayer P
Dear Zoo (board book) Rod Campbell P
Intersetellar Cinderella Deborah Underwood P
Harry the Dirty Dog Eugene Zion P
The Little Engine that Could Watty Piper P
The Stinky Cheese Man and other Fairly Stupid Tales Jon Scieszka & Lane Smith P
A Sick Day for Amos McGee Philip C. Stead P
Everything by Dr. Suess Dr. Suess P
Olivia series Ian Falconer P
It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown Charles M. Schulz P
The Jolly Postman Janet & Allan Ahlberg P
This Book Just Ate My Dog! Henry Holt P
The Polar Express Chris Van Allsburg P
Pinkalicious series Victoria & Elizabeth Kann P
Pete the Cat series Eric Litwin P
Velveteen Rabbit Margery Williams P
Love You Forever Robert Munsch P
The Nightmare Before Christmas TimBurton P
The Complete Adventures of Curious George Margaret and H.A. Rey P
Grandpa Green Lane Smith P
The Snowman (pictures only) Raymond Briggs P
Don’t Let the Pidgeon Drive the Bus Mo Willems P
Goodnight Moon Margaret Wise Brown P
The Snowy Day Ezra Jack Keats P
The Very Hungry Catepillar Eric Carle P
Where the Wild Things Are Maurice Sendak P
Harold and The Purple Crayon Crockett Johnson P
Last Stop on Market Street Matt de La Pena P
Madeline Ludwig Bemelmans P
The Complete Tales of Winnie the Pooh A.A. Milne P
The Gruffalo Julia Donaldson P
The Story of Ferndinand Monro Leaf P
Frog and Toad are Friends Arnold Lobel P
The Boy Who Loved Words Roni Schotter P
There is a Bird on Your Head Mo Willems P
The Hundred Dresses Eleanor Estes P
The Little House Virginia Lee Burton P
Tuesday David Wiesner P
Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day Judith Viorst P
Make Way for Ducklings Robert McCloskey P
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs Judi Barrett P
No, David! David Shannon | P
The Day the Crayons Quit Drew Daywalt P
Elephant and Piggie Books Mo Willems P
If You Give a Mouse a Cookie (series) Laura Joffe Numeroff P
Fancy Nancy books Jane O Conner P
Chicka Chicka Boom Boom Bill Martin Jr. and John Archambault P
The Giving Tree Shel Silverstein P
Goodnight Moon Margaret Wise Brown P
Rainbow Fish Marcus Pfister P
The Runaway Bunny Margaret Wise Brown P
Corduroy  Don Freeman P
The Mitten  Jan Brett P
Strega Nona Tomie De Paola P
The Velveteen Rabbit Margery Williams P
The True Story of The Three Little Pigs Jon Scieszka P
Jumanji Chris Van Allsburg P
The Paperbag Princess Robert N. Munsch P
Fly guy series 4+
Grimm’s Fairy Tales Brothers Grimm 4+
Danny and the Dinosaur Syd Hoff 5+
There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly series  Lucille Colandra 5+
Rainbow Magic Series  Daisy Meadows 5+
Wizard of Oz L. Frank Baum 5+
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Roa 6+
Matilda Roald Dahl 6+
The BFG Roald Dahl 6+
Amelia Bedelia books Peggy Parish 6+
Shel Silverstein works of poetry Shel Silverstein 6+
Anne of Green Gables series  L.M. Montgomery 6+
The Magic Tree series, age 6+ 6+
Junie B Jones books Barbara Park 6+
Ivy + Bean Series Annie Barrows 6+
The Chocolate Touch Patrick Skene Catling 6+
The One and Only Ivan Katharine Applegate 6+
Clementine Sara Pennypacker 6+
The Cricket in Times Square George Selden 6+
The Night Gardner Jonathan Auxier 6+
The Princess in Black Shannon Hale and Dean Hale 6+
Tuck Everlasting Natalie Babbitt 6+
The Borrowers Mary Norton 7+
Charlotte’s Web EB White 7+
Stuart Little EB White 7+
Trumpeter Swan EB White 7+
Ramona & Beezus books Beverly Cleary 7+
Mr. Popper’s Penguins Richard Atwater 7+
The Mouse and the Motorcycle Beverly Cleary 7+
Freckle Juice Judy Blume 7+
Mary Poppins Dr. P.L. Travers 7+
The Littles John Peterson 7+
Little House on the Prairie series Laura Ingalls Wilder 7+
Dogman series Dav Pilkey 7+
Captain Underpants series Dav Pilkey 7+
Pee Wee Scouts series Judy Delton 7+
My Side of the Mountain Jean Craighead George 7+
Boxcar Children series  Gertrude Chandler Warner 7+
The Rainbow Magic Fairy Series, age 7+ 7+
Stellaluna Janell Cannon 7+
The Castle in the Attic Elizabeth Winthrop 8+
The Swiss Family Robinson Johann David Wyss 8+
Bunnicula Deborah and James Howe 8+
James and The Giant Peach Roald Dahl 8+
The Chronicles of Narnia series CS Lewis 8+
Mrs. Piggle Wiggle series Betty MacDonald 8+
Sarah, Plain and Tall Patricia Macklachlin 8+
Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes Eleanor Coerr 8+
Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH Rober C. O’Brien 8+
Super Fudge books Judy Blume 8+
The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane Katie DiCamillo 8+
The Magician’s Elephant Katie DiCamillo 8+
Tale of Desperaux Katie DiCamillo 8+
Harriet the Spy Louse Fizthugh 8+
A Boy Called Bat Elana Arnold 8+
All-of-a-kind Family Sydney Taylor 8+
Dick King-Smith books, age 8+ 8+
Black Beauty Anna Sewell 8+
Mandy Julie Andrews 8+
The Ordinary Princess MM Kaye 8+
The Jungle Book Rudyard Kipling 8+
The I Survived Series Lauren Tarshis 8+
How to Eat Fried Worms Thomas Rockwell 8+
Goosebumps series R.L. Stine 8+
Choose Your Own Adventure books, age 8+ 8+
The Sisters Grimm series Peter Ferguson 8+
Coraline Neil Gaiman 8+
Peter Pan J.M. Barrie 8+
How to Train Your Dragon series Cressida Cowell 8+
Zathura Chris Van Allsburg 8+
Gaia Girls series Lee Welles 8+
Little Women Louisa May Alcott 8+
American Girl Books various 8+
The Indian in the Cupboard Lynne Reid Banks 8+
Little Britches: Father and I were Ranchers Ralph Moody 8+
The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles Julie Andrews Edwards 8+
Pinocchio Carlo Collodi 8+
Secret Garden Frances Hodgsen Burnett 9+
The Phantom Tollbooth Norton Juster 9+
The Whipping Boy Sid Fleischman 9+
Treasure Island Robert Louis Stevenson 9+
A Gathering of Days Joan W. Blose 9+
A Little Princess Frances Hodgsen Burnett 9+
Because of Winn Dixie Katie DiCamillo 9+
City of Ember Jeanne Duprau 9+
From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs Basil E. Frankweiler 9+
The Cricket in Times Square George Selden 9+
Sideways Stories from Wayside School Louis Sachar 9+
A Wrinkle in Time Madeline L’Engle 9+
The Dork Diaries Rachel Renne Russell 9+
Harry Potter series J.K. Rowling 9+
Percy Jackson and the Olympians series Rick Riordian 9+
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland Lewis Carroll 9+
A Series of Unfortunate Events series Lemony Snickett 9+
Bridge to Teribethia Katherine Paterson  9+
The Hobbit J.R.R Tolkien 9+
The Root Cellar Janet Lunn 9+
Lord of the Rings series J.R.R. Tolkien 9+
The Light Princess George McDonald 9+
Number the Stars Lois Lowry 9+
The Water Horse Dick King-Smith 9+
The Giver Lois Lowry 9+
Where the Red Fern Grows Wilson Rawls 9+
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Mark Twain 10+
Adventures of Tom Sawyer Mark Twain 10+
The Enchanted Forest Chronicles Patricia C Wede 10+
Holes series Lous Sachar 10+
Robinson Crusoe Daniel Defoe 10+
The Redwall Series Brian Jacques 10+
Carl Hiassen books, age 10+ 10+
Neil Gaiman books, age 10+  10+
Esperanza Rising Pam Munoz Ryan 10+
I am Malala Malala Yousafzai, Patricia McCormick 10+
Wonder R.J. Palacio 10+
Peter and the Starcatchers ave Barry and Ridley Pearson 10+
The Book Thief Marcus Zusack 10+
Anne Frank Anne Frank 11+
The Face on the Milk Carton series Caroline B Cooney 12+
Both Sides of Time series Caroline B Cooney 12+
Ender’s Game Orson Scott Card  12+
The Hunger Game series Suzanne Collins  12+
Legend series Marie Lu 12+
The Outsiders S. E. Hinton 12+
To Kill a Mockingbird Harper Lee 12+

Summer Dreaming

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It’s been awhile since I’ve carved out time for myself to write. It’s harder to call myself a writer if I’m not actively writing, but even when I’m not writing, I’m thinking about it. I think about how I would weave the words to paint the picture that is this snapshot in our lives. One of these nuggets that I’ve been carefully crafting is the fact that here we are on the cusp of summer, the last home stretch of the school year on the horizon and I can tell you right now exactly what I want to do this summer.

Nothing.

Don’t get me wrong, we won’t be so far ensconced into our couch that the only way to find us is to stare abstractly at our living room like one of those magic eye paintings for the image to pop through the fabric. But at the same time, I’m exhausted. Most of our day, seven days a week is all scheduled out between ABA therapy, two separate preschool classes, doctor’s appointments, IEP meetings, diagnostic testing, respite sessions (which are for my benefit but still have to be worked into our existing schedule), and running errands. By the time our schedule for the day has ended after 3 pm, I’m numbly going through the motions of adulting: changing diapers, cleaning, cooking, making sure everyone eats and is bathed and brushed and goes to bed by a certain hour (usually in my bed with me).

I don’t need a fancy vacation, live concerts, a big camping trip, a road trip adventure, or even a goal to eat at all the brunch hot spots this summer. All I really want is to bring down the pace of our lives a little, if only for a few weeks. These are my sincere wishes for this summer:

  1. To have a flexible schedule. What I mean by this is I don’t want all of our days to be scheduled out. I would love to wake up at least a couple times a week and not know what we are doing that day. We still have ABA five days a week in summer so this becomes a little tricky. I’m limiting the rest of our schedule to swim and dance lessons at the YMCA for the girls but the rest of the summer I want to be what we make of it. I don’t want a schedule to keep or grand trips to plan. I don’t want to have to be anywhere or be ready for company at a given time every single day. I want the chance to be bored.
  2. To let my girls be little girls. It’s not as if the girls are actually taking the load of pre-law students, but at the same time I want to be able to open my back door this summer and let them run around in the sunshine, play in the dirt with the dog, scrape their knees and dig up earthworms if that’s what they want to do that day. No more preparation for Kindergarten, no more IEP or diagnostic testing, no more developmental goals or milestones to achieve. We have a play room full of toys and an IKEA shelving unit full of arts and craft supplies, paint, bubbles, sidewalk chalk, play doh and board games. Let that be their homework and their goals for the summer.
  3. Enjoy simple pleasures. I’ve found my favorite things these days and the things I most look forward to are writing (THIS right HERE), reading a book I can lose myself in, and sipping coffee or my favorite beverage in the quiet minutes of the morning, or even just being outside and enjoying where I am in that given moment. I want to be able to do those things and let my kids experience their own simple pleasures as much as possible this summer. Eating dinner al fresco, spending all day getting dirty outside and making messes and ending the day with a long bubble bath, or spending a Sunday together building forts and watching Pixar movies all day sound like wonderful options. I don’t want an epic vacation to plan or a fun card to fill. I want to open a new box of crayons and bask in the glory of Crayola.

I want my kids to look back on this summer and remember how little we really need to be happy. Who’s with me? Let’s slow down this summer and enjoy the little joys. Let’s put away our check lists, planners, and Instagram filters and just to be here, right now, filterless and fancy free.

What it’s like to be a military family during a government shutdown.

I was sitting on the couch on Friday evening when I turned to my husband and let him know that the federal budget hadn’t been passed (again) and the government had officially shut down (again). We both sighed and started googling on our phones to see how we would be affected and what we would need to do to prepare this time.

Imagine for a minute that the executives from the company you work for couldn’t hit their deadlines so they temporarily shut down their operations and quit paying their employees indefinitely until the matter is resolved. Oh, but you still have to work. Also, the executives will still be paid.

You’re left with trying to figure out how you’re going to pay for your mortgage, your bills, and groceries with no way of knowing when you will see your next pay check. If you’re lucky, business will resume as usual before pay day and you won’t be affected. If you’re unlucky, you may need to make this next paycheck last longer and start looking for other resources to help float you through. If you’re resourceful, you may have a savings to pull from but if you’re like one of the hundreds of thousands (or 25% of active duty) in the military that not only live pay check to pay check, but also rely on food aid a savings account may not exist.

Navy Federal and USAA which are both military affiliated financial institutions have already started offering 0% interest loans to help active duty military get through this first pay period which they may be facing without a paycheck, but what if this issue were to extend more than a couple weeks? In the past this hasn’t been an issue, but that doesn’t mean it can’t happen. Assuming you aren’t already living paycheck to paycheck and have any kind of an emergency savings account sacked away, how many paychecks could you miss before you would be in serious financial straits? Now you can begin to see why the federal shut down is such a big deal to the 1.4 million active duty service members and their families in this country.

Now imagine that your company was also connected to all the other services you use every day from your child’s day care center, to their school, to your family’s doctor’s office and hospital, health insurance, and even your grocery store so that every time your company had to temporarily shut down because of a budgetary issue you had to find which if any of these services would be open and available during a shut down.

The issue of the federal shut down doesn’t just affect military pay checks, it also affects services that military families utilize and rely on as well. Commissaries which offer tax-free, discounted groceries aren’t operational during a federal shut down. While military hospitals are often available for emergency and inpatient procedures, well visits and non-critical operations may be closed. Military families also rely on military child care centers (CDC’s), which often have to close during a shut down as well. This places an additional burden on families who now have to work unpaid to find alternative child care when they are often without a family support system nearby.

While the government shut down may seem minor, military families already face a lot of uncertainty. We often don’t know where we will live more than two to three year stretches at a time. We may not know when our soldiers or sailors will be deployed or how long they will be gone. Some of us may not even know where our loved ones are going or what dangers they may face when they get there. Regardless of the bipartisan feuds and budgetary issues in our senate, knowing if or when we will be paid should not be one of the uncertainties military families face.

Kindness Project Status

Our Kindness Jar Project is off to a better start than I anticipated. I was worried that we would get behind after four days and I would give up on the endeavor completely, but it’s actually proven to be a fun daily task (for the most part). The first day was a little rough, as Olive had difficulty getting excited about the project when she discovered that the activities on the papers were not actually FOR her (which is part of the reason why this is important). I also had to remind myself mentally on more than one occasion that my kids are four and two and they’re not going to understand the concepts of why this is important yet and that’s ok. But I’m still glad we’re trying to make this a part of our holiday tradition because I’m hoping that when they’re a little older the concept of giving and being kind as a learned trait will become more second nature and they will be just as excited to do some of these activities that they were this year.

These are the activities we’ve completed so far as they appear on the slip of paper. Some of them are small acts like helping each other out or spending extra time together and being present together or small activities that help them learn about the idea of kindness and giving back to others. Others are more charitable acts like helping neighbors, friends, or giving back to an organization. I’ve included links and pictures for some of the activities as well.

There are many men, women, and families that do not have a home in San Diego. That means that they often don’t have things we use every day like fresh drinking water, soap, snacks, and clean clothes. Help mommy make “blessing bags” to keep in the car so that when we see people asking for help while we are out we have a way to help, no matter where we are!

I went to the Dollar Tree for most of the items for the blessing bags and Target for some extra toiletries and snacks. We filled six bags with items like toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap, hand sanitizer, tissues, cleansing wipes, tylenol, protein bars, trail mix, etc. The idea of people being homeless and without basic supplies were still a little over their head but they had fun putting the bags together.

There are many children around the world who are less fortunate than we are. This means they may not always get a lot of presents under their Christmas tree this year. Help give another little girl and boy a very merry Christmas by helping mommy and daddy put together care packages with little toys and goodies for two special little kids. Just imagine the smile you will be putting on their faces!

We had originally been planning to participate in Operation Christmas Child as we had last year, but when we pulled this slip of paper and I went online I realized we missed the drop off deadline already (oops), so we decided to donate to Toys for Tots instead. We were already on base running errands so we stopped by the NEX, let each of them pick out one toy (and spend an extra fifteen minutes checking out all the toys of course) and then after checking out, each of them dropped their toy into the donation box. I was actually really surprised at how well both girls did with this activity. They were siked to pick out a toy for someone else and Olive understood from the outset that she would not be taking any toys home with her and she didn’t seem phased by this in the least.

You have so many toys! There are a lot of children who are less fortunate than we are and one of the best ways we can give back and spread kindness is to donate some of our play things to others to help share our joy! Help mommy go through the toys in your play room and bedroom and pick out the toys you no longer play with and that you think would make another little boy and girl happy. Just think about how happy they will be to have some of these toys as their very own!

This one went much better than anticipated. Olive was very excited to help out other kids and picked out a lot of toys to donate. What surprised me was the fact that she absolutely refused to part with the small cheap toys she had gotten from Happy Meals, as party favors, or in blind bags but was quick to pick out some of the more expensive toys that we had given her at her last birthday (which I had to veto). But we gave away some great toys that didn’t get played with much any more and I felt like the mom from Toy Story and secretly wondered if all of my kids’ toys are living a secret life and are petrified of me shoving them in a box.

Mommy works very hard every day. Let’s bring a smile to her face and be extra kind by helping her pickup your bedroom, playroom, and the toys in the living room to help her out today.

This was one of the more difficult tasks that Olive really didn’t want to participate in. She didn’t want to pick up her play room and what should’ve been a twenty minute task, turned into a 45 minute task with a lot of yelling and crying and tears from both parties (yea, I’m clearly not bitter AT ALL).

One of the best ways to show kindness is by spending time together. Let’s have a family game night together! Pick two games we can play together!

We ended up just playing one game: Kerplunk! This ended up being a very fun way to spend time together. We’ve had the game for awhile, but don’t play it very often because it’s one of those activities that takes a lot of setup and the kids finish the game in thirty seconds because they refuse to take turns pulling the sticks out and just want to see the balls fall.

Grandma and Grandpa live very far away and we don’t get to see them very often. Let’s make their holiday brighter today by making them a homemade gift and sending it to them in the mail!

This is the ONE task that we are behind in…it’s a work in progress!

There are a lot of animals that need homes but unfortunately we can’t adopt any of them. Instead, help mommy and daddy pick out a wild animal to adopt online!

We adopted a LION!!! In all honesty, part of me wanted to take the kids to an animal shelter and pick a real animal to give a forever home to but our house is at capacity with an enormous dog and two cats. The plan is to learn more about the “lion” we adopted by learning about lions once the pamphlet and poster come in the mail.

Let’s be kind to a friend today. We haven’t seen our friend Chris in awhile. Let’s write him a nice letter and send it to him in the mail so he can get a nice surprise.

This also turned out to be a process because while Olive was super excited to pick out a page from her coloring book for her friend from preschool and color it and decorate it with stickers she absolutely did not want to write him a letter and did not want me to  write one either. No amount of me explaining how bizarre it will be to JUST receive a partially colored paw patrol page in the mail with no motivation for sending it would persuade her that including a letter was a good idea. I finally wrote one any ways and told her what it said and took her stony silence as compliance.

Let’s learn about kindness today! Have an extra special story time with a “Kindness” theme with Mommy and Daddy today!

I’m fully aware that these acts of kindness are a big concept for my kids regardless of how simple I’m trying to keep them. I thought having a day where we learn about kindness through story time might help to begin cementing some of these ideas in an age appropriate way. Here are the books I chose to include:

A Sick Day for Amos McGee

The Giving Tree

Last Stop on Market Street

Pay it forward today! Let’s go through the Starbucks drive thru for coffee and goodies with Mommy and we will get the tab for the people behind us too!

Yesterday, I waited for it to get dark outside, loaded the kids in the car with blankets and frosted sugar cookies and we went through the Starbucks drive thru so I could get coffee and the kids could get chocolate milk with whipped cream and we hit up the local neighborhoods in our are that are famous for their holiday light display. I made sure to pay for the people behind us and explained to the kids about the concept of “paying it forward” and that hopefully the people behind us would do the same. The kids had a great time “Ohhhing and Ahhing” the twinkly lights and loading up on sweets in their comfy clothes and listening to holiday music on the radio. Definitely a fun Sunday activity!

Above All Else, Be Kind

Tomorrow is December 1st. Yikes.

The last few holidays have been especially fun because of my children and each year I try to add a new holiday tradition to make that year special. Some traditions we keep up every year, like baking my granny’s famous sugar cookies (recipe at the end of the post), taking holiday pictures of the kids that become photo cards, and picking a charity or organization to contribute to. Others end up getting scrapped because I suck at hosting ugly sweater parties and I never have enough AA batteries to keep the Christmas train turned on for the entire month of December.

This is the first year that I’ve felt the kids were old enough that I really want to introduce them to the “giving back” part of the season. I don’t want the holidays to be just about what we put under the tree, baking cookies, and opening and exchanging presents. We are not a religious family so we don’t put “Christ” in “Christmas,” we don’t do Santa or Elf on the Shelf. I want the holidays to be about the time we spend together, but also about how we spend that time.  I may fail at all other parts of being a parent, but the one thing I want to do right is to instill in my children the importance of kindness. Kindness not only to each other, but to our friends, our neighbors and strangers we meet every day as well as the ones we may never meet.

It’s in that vein that I’m starting a new holiday tradition. I’m creating a Kindness Jar that will have 23 separate acts of kindness written on slips of paper inside of it. Starting on December 1st and ending on December 23rd, I will let the kids take turns picking one piece of paper each day and we will do whatever act is listed together. Some of the activities are much more involved and hands on (like creating care packages to donate or for our friends or neighbors) and others are more simple (like making Daddy a welcome home sign with sidewalk chalk before he comes home from work). The idea is that the kids will learn different ways they can choose kindness, spread joy, and pay it forward. Hopefully it will become something we practice and learn together and eventually become ingrained into their thinking as adults.

I was originally going to list all of the acts in this post in case anyone wanted ideas, but many of them are surprises for our friends and family so I don’t want to ruin the surprise! I’ve included some links below to some of the websites that I used for inspiration and ideas in case any one is interested. I would also like to give a shout out to Amber Leventry at her Family Rhetoric page for inspiring the Kindness Jar idea.  I will be recording our experience with the Kindness Jar project right here on the blog so I will include the acts and photos in my subsequent posts as they unfold. Stay tuned!

Inspiration for Kindness Jars: 

70 Easy Acts of Kindness

100 Acts of Kindness for Kids

Symbolic Animal Adoption

Supporting the Deployed

Beach Cleanups

Kindness Themed Story Time

Granny’s Sugar Cookies:

Ingredients:
1 c. softened butter
3.5 c. sifted flour
1.5 c. sugar
2 tsp. cream of tarter
3 eggs
1 tsp. soda
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. salt.
Directions: cream butter and vanilla, sugar. Beat in eggs one at a time. Sift together dry ingredients and gradually add. Use ungreased cookie sheets in preheated 375 degree oven for 6-8 minutes
On a side note, you’ll want to chill the dough in the fridge before rolling out. The dough tends to be sticky on the out set that’s normal. Just knead a little flour gradually as you work it until you get it to the point where you can roll it without sticking. Roll out semi-thin so when they cook the edges will brown slightly (that’s how granny did it). It took me a LONG time to get it even semi right so if it turns out like biscuits the first time don’t be frustrated (cause mine did) Also the dough freezes well if you want to thaw out and make for easter too (that’s why we always had bunny cookies in April :))

Please Stop Flipping Holiday Toys

The holidays are fast approaching which to some of us simply means breaking our low carb diet and an extra side of gravy, but for many of us it also means the start of the holiday retail season.

If you’re like me, the idea of spending three times the actual price on something just because it’s December makes you so angry you just refuse to do it. There’s a reason we don’t fly home to visit my parents or in-laws during the holidays. I know you can’t put a price tag on quality time….oh wait. Yes, you can. If it’s the most wonderful time of the year, it’s exactly $3290.65.

And the “Tickle Me Elmo” of the Christmas season that is impossible to find unless I’m willing to blow our entire holiday budget on it? Nope. No thanks. There are more important things than a furry talking creepy toy that my kids will play with for exactly two days, but will continue to haunt my nightmares until Easter.

I consider myself lucky that my children are two and four which means they still find pretty much everything under the Christmas tree to be magical. I know that my four year old will love the new Lego set I stashed away in the garage for her because she’s finally old enough to graduate from Duplos and build with “big kid” Legos. I’m fully confident that my two year old will be equally enthralled with her first Play-doh set hidden in my closet and will probably still sneak pieces in her mouth when I’m not looking. I’m also thankful that neither of them are old enough to read this.

My kids don’t even realize they can tell me what they want for Christmas yet and although they watch a lot of YouTube toy unveilings, they are fairly oblivious to what the “hot toys” are this year. However, I know this won’t last forever and I dread the day when I can no longer begin stock piling their favorite play things weeks and months in advance to avoid the holiday melee altogether. I’m dreading the day when my kids edit their holiday wish list three weeks before Christmas to include whatever the “Hatchimal” craze is that season and I have to explain to them why they won’t be getting that coveted toy under their Christmas tree this year.

As we all know these are the $50 toys on the cover of the Toys R Us and Target holiday catalog that go out of stock at every big box store in October. However, there will be several people in my Facebook mom groups who will have six of them and are selling them for $175 a piece.

If you’re one of the parents selling “rare” Fur-Hatch-Tickle-Finger-mals out of the back of your soccer van, you are part of the problem and I’m talking to you.

This may not seem like a big deal because you aren’t the only one doing it. You can probably justify yourself by simple economics of supply and demand. The stores can’t seem to keep enough in stock, so you are providing a service to other parents who didn’t make it in time to buy it at the store and are willing to pay extra money for all that hard work you did calling every Walmart in the tri-county area and buying all their stock before the rest of us finished our first cup of coffee.

The hole in this theory is that if people weren’t systematically buying out all the available stock and turning around and selling them at a 400% markup, there might actually be some of these toys available for the rest of us at the actual retail price intended for that toy.

And what about the children whose families cannot afford to pay four times the price of a toy just because it’s December? What once was already an expensive toy has suddenly become an impossible wish list item for many kids because someone figured out they could make an extra $700 if they bought twenty Fingerling Monkeys and sold them for $50 a piece. Have we all become so greedy that we have to finance the extra money we spend on our families during the holidays by profiting off the wish lists of children?

I get that money is tight around the holidays, but if you have all that time and effort to put into going store to store, buying up toys and selling them on Facebook and eBay, then you have time to pick up some holiday shifts at Target or Kohls. If you really need to keep the consumerism alive, buy up some of those hot holiday toys and donate them to a toy drive so kids whose families can’t afford to indulge their kids’ wish lists this year can benefit from your retail skills.

It may not pay for your holiday, but it might just make someone else’s.

8 Parenting Mistakes That Still Make Me Cringe (and Laugh)

If there’s one thing I’ve learned since becoming a mother, it’s that no matter how hard we try, there are some mistakes we will make as imperfect parents. The most we can hope for is that we will learn from them, they will be minor, and they will be humorous. You may even get to write about them one day and impart your newfound wisdom onto other parents in the form of unsolicited advice. Here are some of my favorite mistakes that I’ve made in my early days that I can now look back on as a more seasoned parent and find the humor, if not the life lessons in the process.

  1. Forgetting to Take Pictures.

It’s cliché to say, but time is a thief. When I look back at baby pictures of my children, I can’t help but wonder why I didn’t take more pictures of them. I’ve taken thousands over the last four years, but somehow there just doesn’t seem to be enough. I’m sure I would say that regardless of how many I had in fact taken. When my kids were all shiny and new, I remember thinking to myself that I needed to be present and in the moment for every second I held them, fed them, comforted and snuggled them because that first year goes by so quickly. But in truth, it was also mottled with sleepless nights and days without showering or any real time to myself. It’s difficult to cling to every precious moment when your child is a baby when you also just want to speed up time so they can pour themselves a bowl of cereal and wipe their own rear. That being said, I still wish I had taken more pictures and that I cherished that new baby smell just a little bit longer because now that those moments are gone, I really do miss them.

  1. Swim Diapers are NOT Absorbent.

That’s really all anyone needs to know. I remember thinking I was inventing new baby hacks when I decided to dress my nine month old in her swim diaper and swim suit on our way to the splash pad so I wouldn’t have to dress her in the heat once we got there and we could get right to the fun part of enjoying the park (and taking lots of pictures). What actually transpired was trying to figure out why my baby was sitting in a puddle of pee when we got to the park because she’d peed her swim diaper on the way and not only did I have to put her in a new diaper, but since I didn’t bring her a spare swim suit (why would I?) she had to enjoy the park clad only in a new swim diaper and flip flops. Her towel also had to double as a car seat cover on top of the one she soiled since I don’t travel with spare car seat covers either. What I now know is that swim diapers are only meant to keep poop out of the pool, but are comparable to swaddling your baby in off-brand paper towel in terms of absorbency. Luckily, it was a mistake I only made once.

  1. Never Filling out Baby Books or Growth Charts.

I believe I spent more time on Etsy, Amazon, and Zulilly shopping for my daughters’ baby book of firsts, monthly milestone stickers, and wall mounted growth charts than time I’ve spent filling any of them out combined. I keep telling myself that I can easily get a growth chart from my doctor’s office to mark up the one hanging on their wall and surely I can remember when my kids walked and their first words…at least enough to half way fill out a book for each of them…

It feels like that time in college when I had to write an essay on Moby Dick, but suffice it to say I may or may not have actually properly read the entire book so I was in fact writing the essay while speed reading the sections I missed and trying to piece together an essay that wouldn’t reflect that I hadn’t put in the proper amount of work at the beginning of the term. In my defense, it was 800 pages of about 5,000 pages of assigned reading I had that term and that first year of childhood is one year in eighteen years of their entire life, most of which is recorded on Facebook.

  1. Trying to force my kids to let me do their hair.

Neither of my kids will sit still long enough for me to do their hair in any thing more intricate than hair clips. Ponytails are out of the question, let alone French braids, layered ribbons, or unicorn rainbow glitter highlights (or whatever the basic toddlers are sporting these days). I’m lucky if the routine hair brushing I force both my kids to endure makes it to preschool drop off. After four years of begging my kids to let me style their hair, I’ve quit trying. When people make comments about their wild and crazy locks I insist it’s a reflection of their personality and that my children are basically feral. I’ve also found it helps if you put them in graphic tees that say “Messy Hair Don’t Care.” People tend to stop asking questions at that point.

  1. Forgetting picture day.

This is really only a problem because of #4. More time and effort goes into picture day than on any other school day combined including what my kids will wear and how much time, effort, and hair spackle (aka detangler) will be used at the start of the day. I usually try to schedule an appointment for my oldest to have her mane tamed the week prior to picture day to help minimize what I like to call “the towhead effect.” So when I forget picture day (which so far has only happened once), it involves turning my car upside down looking for hair clips, water bottles to wet hair with, and using my fingers like claws to somehow smooth out my daughter’s tresses all while cursing the fact that more breakfast and toothpaste ended up on her face and shirt than in her mouth. Even with all these well planned (and spontaneous) tools employed, I usually find myself wondering how the heck other parents are able to get their kids to school with all their hair in place, brushed, braided, and beribboned. I’m guessing their children spend less of their time wrapped up in blankets, rolling around on the ground, pretending to be a burrito.

  1. Swearing in front of my kids.

Please note this says swearing IN front of my kids and not swearing AT my kids. I reserve that for my internal monologues. I wish I could say that I never use bad language in front of my children, but that’s just not the case. I tend to drop F-bombs when I’m stuck in traffic (especially when I’m late and also have to pee), when I collide crotch first into the corner of the kitchen table, when I can’t find my phone or my keys, when I’ve venting on the phone to one of my other mom friends, and when I’m rage cleaning before company is coming over. Basically I only curse on the days that end in “y.” This really only becomes a problem when your kids inevitably end up picking up on your vernacular and yell out in frustration at their behavioral therapist, “These F-ing shoes!” (I can neither confirm nor deny this happened in real life and that she used her f-bomb contextually correct).

  1. Buying too many toys.

I’m going to be honest, my house looks like Toys R Us vomited in here. I tend to overdo holidays and birthdays but I don’t regret it. Yes, we could be focusing more on the “spirit” of the holiday and my kids participate in toy drives and giving back when an age appropriate opportunity presents itself, but I also selfishly enjoy watching my kids open presents and play with their toys. I don’t buy them toys to buy their affection. I do it for the same reason I should have taken more pictures and for the same reason I try to stop and play with my kids and to be present with them every day. Yes, these are material things, but one day I won’t be able to make their day any more just by surprising my kids with a brand new five pack of play-doh and taking an hour out of my day to enjoy it with them. And when you’re three there is nothing like the smell of a fresh can of play-doh. I fully understand that one day they will outgrow their childlike wonder along with their childhood play things and I want to make the most of both while I can.

  1. Wanting to be done with xyz phase.

There is a season of each part of childhood that is just plain hard as a parent. Between cluster feeding, colic, four a.m. feedings, and diaper explosions parenting through those infant years is exhausting. And then of course comes the toddler years. There’s a reason why they call them the terrible two’s, threenagers, and horror-fours (ok, I made that one up). The toddler years come with their own brand of turmoil between temper tantrums, potty training, and getting them ready for kindergarten. But the truth is as many times as I’ve wanted to be done with “this” phase (this being whatever phase my kids were currently in), it would also mean that they would be one step closer to being grown up and I’m not ready for that yet either. As much as I would love to be out of the diapering phase of parenting, I’m not ready to say goodbye to little toddler feet and baby curls. As much as I loathe the fight several times a day, every single day to physically put two toddlers in car seats and physically buckle them in, I’m also not ready for the day when they ask to borrow my car yet either.

A lot of the mistakes I make as a parent make me both cringe and smile. They’re a reminder that although we all want to do the best by our children, we’re also all human and we’re not going to get everything right all the time. Let’s try not to be too hard on ourselves. Just remember the big things: correct your kids when they don’t use their F-bombs grammatically correct, make sure your lies are believable if you’re not going to fill out their baby books until they’re thirteen, and don’t put a swim diaper on them until they get in the pool.

Oh….and don’t forget to take the picture.