Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Wordless Wednesday- Christmas Captured- Perfectly Imperfect

It is easy to get sucked into the pictures you see on the Internet of perfectly beautiful Christmas crafts and feel both inadequate or somehow not meeting the great expectations of the holiday season. As an homage to these photos, I thought I would share how we celebrate in our house. Christmas is real...
REAL messy.

(And a shot of the gingerbread house we made because tepees are easier to construct than houses.)

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Dragon Defender by J.A. Blackburn: Guest Book Review and Giveaway

About the Book

Dragon Defender by J.A. BlackburnTitle: Dragon Defender (Dragon Defense League, Book #1) Author: J.A. Blackburn Publication Date: October 19, 2013 Publisher: Pip & Grey Number of pages: 242 Recommended age: 10+      

Summary (Amazon):

For over a thousand years dragons have existed in secret . . . Peter Clark can build a robot from scratch and pick a lock in two minutes or less. But he can't figure out why his mother left or why his grandma refuses to talk about her. When Uncle Dominick shows up on Peter's twelfth birthday with a letter that hints at answers and an incredible story about dragons, Peter follows him, determined to find out the truth about his mother's disappearance. What he finds is a reality far different from what he ever could have imagined - where dragons live in hiding, hunted by poachers for their magical parts, and a small group of men and women work tirelessly to protect them. These are the Dragon Defenders. Peter's uncle is one. So was his mother. Now it's Peter's turn.

* Finalist in the Pacific Northwest Writers Association 2013 Literary Contest *



Amazon (Print) | Amazon (Kindle)


The Buzz

"We read an advance copy of this book on kindle earlier this year and our 5th grade son read it twice and is anxiously awaiting the next book in the series. Great adventure, really kept our interest reading it together at night. This was one of the kids books I most enjoyed reading myself as well. The characters and the plot are well developed, and appealing to a wide range of kids (both genders). The writing is sophisticated but easy to understand, not 'dumbed down' like many kids books. The subject of dragons was so well crafted that it's easy believe that dragons just might exist, after all." ~ 5 Star Review, Leigh A., Amazon

"Reminiscent of the Fablehaven series (with just the right touch of Harry P.) this middle grade book is both an adventure and a pleasure...Fast-paced and full of wonder, this book takes middle grade readers on a vivid journey from the southwestern U.S. to Mexico; where jungles, ancient ruins and local folklore add to the enchantment that Peter finds when he discovers that dragons are in fact, real. As a former elementary school teacher, my strong feeling is that kids will eat this book whole, and then turn to searching for dragon eggs in their own backyards!" ~ 5 Star Review, Grace W., Amazon

"Dragon Defender was an absorbing action packed read! The author pulls you in from the first page and I'm not sorry to say I read it all in the first day. I'm 33 but still! This is a fun book for a chapter a night with your 5 year old (my son is loving it so far) or for yourself. The characters are well developed so you feel like you're really there, and the dragon is so believable. I'd venture so far as to say I had to remind myself that dragons don't really exist.... or do they?" ~ 5 Star Review, MGC, Amazon


About the Author: J.A. Blackburn

J.A. Blackburn, Author J.A. Blackburn   J. A. Blackburn lives in Seattle, Washington in a small white house overlooking the sea with her husband, Jason, her son, Camden, and their dog, Bella. Dragon Defender is her first novel.

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads


* $50 Book Blast Giveaway *

Prize: $50 Amazon Gift Card or PayPal cash (winner’s choice) Contest runs: December 8, 2013 to January 6, 2014, 11:59 pm, 2013 Open: Internationally How to enter: Please enter using the Rafflecopter widget below. Terms and Conditions: NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW. A winner will be randomly drawn through the Rafflecopter widget and will be contacted by email within 48 hours after the giveaway ends. The winner will then have 72 hours to respond. If the winner does not respond within 72 hours, a new draw will take place for a new winner. Odds of winning will vary depending on the number of eligible entries received. This contest is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with Facebook. This giveaway is sponsored by the author, J.A. Blackburn and is hosted and managed by Renee from Mother Daughter Book Reviews. If you have any additional questions – feel free to send and email to Renee(at)MotherDaughterBookReviews(dot)com. a Rafflecopter giveaway   MDBR Book Promotion Services

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Kid Lit Giveaway Hop Holiday Extravaganza- Little Children's Christmas Music Book

Thanks for "hopping" over to my blog! I am so excited to be participating in the Kid Lit Giveaway Hop Holiday Extravaganza, hosted by Mother Daughter Book Reviews & Youth Literature Reviews. This is my first blog hop, ever, and I love that it has a holiday theme. Nothing like hosting a giveaway and spreading the spirit of giving during the holidays! After you read my post and enter the giveaway for the book I have chosen, you can follow the Linky down at the end of my post to visit the 51 other blog posts to enter their giveaways.

And please make sure to check out the lovely hostesses for this blog hop!
Youth Literature Reviews:
Mother Daughter Book Reviews:

I was having trouble trying to decide which book to include for my giveaway, so I turned to Heather Bowling, who is an independent for Usborne Books, for advice. My kids already love the other Usborne books we have in our library, and I was betting I would be able to find something that would be the perfect mix of reading and fun for the holidays. She offered several excellent suggestions, but I finally ended up deciding to purchase Usborne's Little Children's Christmas Music Book by Fiona Watt and illustrated by Elisa Squillace.

Overview From the Publisher:

Description from the publisher: The perfect introduction to different musical sounds, this sound-chip storybook follows Mole, Badger, and all their friends as they practice for a Christmas concert. Beautiful illustrations complete the package, bringing the magic and sparkle of Christmas to life. 
Publisher Recommended Age: 3 years and up
Size: 9 x 11 3/4
Pages: 24
Series: Little Children's Music Book
Author/Editor: Fiona Watt
Illustrator: Elisa Squillace
Music: Anthony Marks.

My Review:

I purchased the book to give to my youngest daughter (who is 18 months old) as a "kick-off" of the holidays. Each of my girls received Christmas pajamas and a book. Here is little Miss J opening up her holiday selection.

Even though the publisher recommends this book for ages 3 and up, I knew it would be a huge hit with my toddler because she loves anything that involves pressing buttons. Another reason I choose this book is because she absolutely adores dancing to music. Also, it is filled with adorable animal characters, and there is something to be said for how little kids completely connect with animal characters.

The Little Children's Christmas Music Book is a delightful adventure through the woods where the reader follows Mole, Rabbit, Bear, Squirrel, Mrs. Badger, and Fox as they rehearse for their Christmas concert. The illustrations in this book are jolly and inviting, with holly and Christmas decorations peppered throughout. You cannot help but be put in the Christmas spirit by the time you reach the end of the book. After you hear each of the adorable animals practice their individual parts, the story ends with all five parts being played together to create the perfect holiday song.

I could go on and on about how sweet this book would be to watch your child open up on Christmas morning; however I think Little Miss J does a much better job selling the book. Check out her "review" I recorded the other night. She really loves the glockenspiel that the Mole plays the best.


She obviously liked something in the book.

You can purchase this book through Usborne Books & More.

To enter to giveaway, here are the details:

1. The Blog Hop runs from December 6th through December 13th at 11:59 PM.
2. My giveaway includes one copy of the Usborne's Little Children's Christmas Music Book.
3. The book is graciously being donated by Heather from Usborne Books and More. She will ship the lucky winner a copy of this book.
4. To participate in the giveaway use the Rafflecopter widget below.
5. The winner will be announced on my Facebook page and on Twitter.
6. Only individuals with a US mailing address are eligible for this specific giveaway. 

Good luck! And have fun reading the other blogs!

  a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

My Gratitude for Ramona and Beverly Cleary

It is 6 in the evening. There are two ravenously hungry girls in our house and two exhausted parents. The dog is barking for attention. The pot of pasta has just boiled over. And that, my friends, is the moment my six-year-old daughter decides to teach her little sister how to jump on and off of the couch.

I freak out.
My husband freaks out.
No one is hurt....
except our daughter's feelings.

What we see at the moment is a potential trip to our local Children's Hospital. What our daughter sees is that we are unfairly punishing her only, and not also punishing her sister.

An hour later, I walk into my daughters room to see her teaching her little sister how to jump on a doll bed while doing some silly dance.

I am about to freak out, but something happens. The doll bed breaks. My daughter looks at me. I glare at her as she stumbles to the ground. Instead of yelling or chastising her, I simply pick up Little Miss J and take her to her room to put her in her crib for the night. I shut Miss M's door and walk away from the situation. These moments of frenzied excitement, I know, will only become progressively worse as Christmas looms in the distance.

Thirty minutes later, I return to her room to read with her before bed. Before we have a chance to pick out a new book to read, my daughter begins hysterically crying about how she always makes mistakes, how sorry she is for breaking the doll bed, and how mad she is with herself.

These are the moments that they don't prepare you for when you become a parent. What do you say to make her feel better? How do you possibly wrap your brain around the complexity of the emotion in the 12 seconds you are allotted to come up with a response as the crocodile tears stream down her rosy cheeks. I glance over to her books and decide to suggest reading Ramona Quimby, Age 8 by Beverly Cleary instead of directly addressing the tears.

Within moments of starting the book, I send an imaginary note of gratitude to Ms. Beverly Cleary. It is incredible how a book published in 1981 speaks not only to the young girl sitting next to me but is able to help me remember how incredibly unfair life can be when you are no longer a "cute little toddler"and grown-ups expect so much from you.

It is indeed easy to forget how children can feel that so much of what happens depends on them, and that they may indeed feel overwhelmed at times by our great expectations.

We only got through the first chapter tonight, partly because it was late, but also because the first chapter gave us the platform from which we could actually have a productive conversation about the way she was feeling. It was interesting to discuss Ramona's relationship as the older kid with her neighbor Willa Jean in contrast to how we had mostly seen Ramona as the younger sister to Beezus. Miss M can certainly relate to the dynamic of being the older kid expected to set a good example for her little sister.

We ended our conversation with snuggles. I promised I would be patient and try to remember it isn't easy. And Miss M promised to always keep trying.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Sammie & Sax in the Land of Quinoa by Sheila Kemper Dietrich and Illustrated by Timothy Foss

Last night at dinner we were mired in our usual power struggle with my picky six-year-old daughter. My husband had made stuffed peppers. It was the perfect combination of whole grains, vegetables, and protein. They were topped with some delicious Parmigiano-Reggiano. My daughter wanted more cheese to smother on her green pepper. We told her that she had plenty of cheese on her plate.

She countered that cheese was healthy.
We fought back stating that although cheese is healthy, too much cheese is not good for you.
I was about to tell her Paracelsus's principle of toxicology: The dose makes the poison. However, I decided instead to read the book Sammie and Sax in the Land of Quinoa: the Search for a Balanced Meal that night at bedtime.

A week earlier, I had been attending a conference for work, totally unrelated to children's literature, and I came across the Livliga booth at the Expo. This is where I met the dynamic and inspiring Sheila Kemper Dietrich, the author of the book and creator of livliga.

Imagine working as the director of the American Heart Association in Denver, witnessing first hand the consequences of the "super-sized" lifestyle, and then being brave enough to leave your job to work towards fixing the problem. I was truly inspired by not only her creativity, but also actually doing what so many of us just talk about doing- making change. The change she created were several lines of dishes that are designed with size proportion labels to help control the amount of food being consumed at the dinner table. However, unlike many portion control plates I have seen in the store, these are soothing and aesthetically pleasing.  I think what I loved the most about her story, when I was talking to her, was that she lost over 50 pounds herself learning to eat more balanced meals.

One of her product lines is Kidliga, which features a children's book and coordinating porcelain place settings to promote eating balanced meals for kids. I purchased the book and was thrilled to have Ms. Sheila sign it!

The story features Sammie, Sax, and their dog Rhubarb as they travel to the Land of Quinoa in search of a balanced meal. As the kids embark on their journey, they find fruits, vegetables, and other foods along the way that try to help them figure out how to make a balanced meal. The foods are all ingeniously drawn as puzzle pieces, so by the end of the book you have a completed puzzle: the balanced meal. The story is engaging and well written. Most importantly, it didn't feel like I was reading a book that was telling my kids what to eat, but instead just felt like a creative children's book I was sharing with them. What is even better is that there are recipes at the end of the book for the healthy meal the children discovered.

I highly recommend picking up this book. I am slightly annoyed with myself for not purchasing the gorgeous place settings at the conference. The bowl and mug that go with the plate are simply beautiful, and I love that they are made of porcelain and not plastic or melamine. I am going to be putting these dishes on my Christmas wish list! I hope Santa is taking notes.

Here is where you can purchase the book and the coordinating place settings:

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Maddie's Wings: A Lesson in Love by Tamera Rickman- A Review

Maddie's Wings: A Lesson in Love by Tamera Rickman and illustrated by Steve McGinnis

The book Maddie's Wings: A Lesson in Love is the tenderhearted story of an adorable dachshund named Maddie and her journey through life. The book is dedicated to the author's real life dog, Maddie, and it is told from the heart in a way only a mommy to a sweet little dog can tell a story. While I really liked the story, my daughter loved and connected with this book in a way that I rarely see her connect with a book. She was in tears by the end when the sweet little Maddie dies, having finally "loved enough" and "earned her wings."

For any parent that has struggled with how to communicate to their child what has happened when a pet dies, this is the perfect book to help ease the pain. In fact, I am finding that even writing a blog post about talking to my child about the death of an animal in a book is tough. The author skillfully uses the analogy of receiving butterfly wings for death. This simple analogy provides the reader with warmth and comfort without becoming mired in any complicated specifics about death.

The author also never directly refers to any specific religious belief about death. I think this is fantastic for families with blended religious and/or cultural beliefs about death that struggle with comforting the youngest of grievers.

I could go on and detail how this book is a superb way to help comfort a child trying to cope with the loss of a pet; however, I would rather share the letter my six year old daughter wrote after reading the book to the author and illustrator. (I left her letter unedited, in its true form, only editing her name.)
Dear Tamera Rickman and Steve McGinnis,
My name is Miss M. I liked Maddie’s Wings because it has a lot of details and the pictures were beautiful to. I liked the way you drew Maddie and the butterflies. I like the front cover because I liked Maddie with the butterfly on her nose  and especially love any kind of dog!
I liked Maddie’s Wings a lot! Our dog Drew died a couple years ago, so we got a new dog. When the dog Maddie died, it reminded me of our dog Drew when she died. Thinking of her as a butterfly made me feel better.
Love, Me 

To purchase the book, please check out it out from Amazon-

* I was given this book free-of-charge by the author in exchange for my honest opinion. All opinions expressed are my own.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

A Book Challenge to Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns- A Muslim Book of Colors

Recently, a parent approached the Scholastic Book fair volunteers, the School Board, and the Press to have the book Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns:  A Muslim Book of Colors by Hena Khan removed from future Scholastic Book fairs at the elemtary school my daughter attends.

Here are the links to the press coverage:
Marietta Daily Journal- Father Upset After Child Finds Muslim Book at School Fair

My Fox Atlanta - Father Upset Religious Book Found at School Fair

My initial response was disbelief; however, the disbelief quickly grew to rage. I felt rage over the potential that a book might actually be removed from a book fair. I felt rage over the comments that the parent made regarding this beautiful children's book. But mostly, I felt rage over the sheer hatred that would precipitate such a request.

But, my rage quickly swelled into a call to action as I realized that this hatred stemmed mostly from a fear of the unknown. My call to action led me to write a letter to the school principal. I wrote to the school superintendent. I wrote to the appropriate school board representative. However, writing these letters did little to quell this overwhelming sense that I could and should be doing more to prevent this type of censorship.

In my debate on whether or not to blog about this topic, my biggest fear with writing a blog post was that it would turn into an attack of the person making the complaint. Even though this person may be the one making the request to have the book removed, the challenge to the books is indicative of a problem that is much bigger than him. I feel compelled to state that I don't want this or any discussion in the comments on my blog to be about him, but I would like to focus on the root cause of the challenge itself: fear and a lack of tolerance of other cultures and religions.

I think it is helpful to share with you a segment of what I wrote to the school representatives:

Ray Bradbury once wrote, "There is more than one way to burn a book. And the world is full of people running about with lit matches." While it seems completely unreasonable to burn a book, challenges to books found in libraries and book sales often are quieted to prevent the match from lighting a fire by removing the book from the shelves. From 1990 and 2000, individuals raised 6,364 challenges to books. This daunting statistic is what compels me to write this email.
 [O]ne of the reasons we love the school is the diverse population. She goes to school with kids from different cultures, that speak different languages, and have different beliefs. We have raised our daughter to be kind and empathetic to her classmates, to learn from them, to listen to them with an open heart instead of shunning them away with fear. It is the fear that drives the request to have the book removed.
As a book fair volunteer, I watched as the children searched the shelves for books that were interesting, that were fun, and to which they could relate. Our school population has many Muslim students, and the students should not be taught that a book about their culture in a beautifully illustrated children's book is akin to terrorism, as [was] inferred from [the] comments [cited] in the paper. Also, there were many books about other religions and cultures available at the book fair, including books about Christmas, Hanukkah, and Greek Mythology, just to name a few. So [the] comment that there was not any representation from other cultures or religions is baseless.
I think Judy Blume put it best when she said, "Let children read whatever they want and then talk about it with them. If parents and kids can talk together, we won't have as much censorship because we won't have as much fear.”
I have complete faith that this school district will not let the fear of one man drive the decisions of the [School District]....“[I]t's not just the books under fire now that worry me. It is the books that will never be written. The books that will never be read. And all due to the fear of censorship. As always, young readers will be the real losers.” ―Judy Blume
I look forward to the next Scholastic book fair and seeing "Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns:  A Muslim Book of Colors" on the shelf.
It is my belief that if we ever hope to eliminate this fear, we must all commit to bringing books that represent a broad spectrum of cultures to our children. And, in the same breath, I challenge publishers to bring books to children that show them a true reflection of the world in which they are growing up.

If anything, the fact that Scholastic is bringing this beautiful book to the the book fair is a testament to Scholastic's commitment to address the persisting issue of a lack of diversity in children's books. I love this info-graphic from Tina Kugler ( about the lack of diversity in children's books that were published in 2012. Diversity in children's books will help to create the tolerance that will prevent future challenges to books, which are based largely on fear.

While one person may "challenge" to have a book removed from the Scholastic Book fair, I feel compelled to place a challenge to the readers of my blog to become more aware of the "lit matches" running around in our community. We must defend our freedom to read. We must read about the American Library Association's Office for Intellectual Freedom ( We must take action.

My commitment to this cause is so strong that I have purchased a copy of Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns:  A Muslim Book of Colors by Hena Khan to give away to one lucky reader, in the hopes that it will start a chain of people passing along beautiful books that will have a positive impact on a child's life. My hope is that you will share this story, take action, give a book to a child that will broaden their view of the world, and become a volunteer and voice for the next generation of readers.

Thank you to all who entered the giveaway! Mary V was the randomly selected winner of the contest.

Update: At the Spring Book Fair, in spite of the requests from our PTA to have the book included, this book unfortunately was NOT found at our book fair.  This was a huge disappointment, and something I have been struggling with how to respond.

If you live locally, the fantastic Little Shop of Stories carries the book and has it in stock. Check it out. The store is tucked in the lovely downtown Decatur district.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Our Top Ten Favorite Dogs From Children's Picture Books

The Little Miss J is obsessed with dogs, which you may or may not have noticed by the abundance of posts that include books with dogs. Given that my nights are spent reading and rereading books that contain dogs, I thought I might share our top ten favorite dog characters in children's picture books.

10. The Poky Little Puppy, by Janette Sebring Lowrey and illustrated by Gustaf Tenggren - This is the quintessential book about a dog that you most likely will remember from your own childhood.

9. Clifford! I featured for this post Pumpkin Patch Puppy by Danielle Denega and illustrated by Barry Goldberg. I choose this book in particular in the spirit of fall. We have so many Clifford books in our house! Years ago, at a library book sale, there was a pile of old scholastic books. I purchased the entire pile, and they have found a second home at our house. 

8. Marley! If you have read Marley and Me by John Grogan, you will love his adaptations for children's books. We have been giving Trick or Treat, Marley by John Grogan and illustrated by Richard Cowdrey quite a few reads as we lead into Halloween.

7.Biscuit! Biscuit is clearly the favorite at the present moment for the Little Miss. The simple text and multiple places to include dog "woofs" make this book perfect for the youngest of readers. We purchased Biscuit Is Thankful by Alyssa Satin Capucilli and illustrated by Pat Schories when we visited Page after Page Bookstore in Elizabeth City, NC. What a perfect way to teach gratitude as we near Thanksgiving!

6. Rover. If you have never read Move Over, Rover! by Karen Beaumont and illustrated by Jane Dyer, please head straight to your library and borrow it. The rhythm of this book is infectious, and the story is lighthearted and fun. Little Miss J often signs "More" when I get to the end of this book.

5. Harry Harry the Dirty Dog by Gene Zion and illustrated by Margaret Bloy Graham is a classic book. Published in 1956, this book remains timeless.

4. Mirabelle! From classic to contemporary, we fell in love with Mirabelle at the Decatur Book Festival this year. Our favorite of the three books about Mirabelle is Mirabelle and the Bouncy Red Ball by Michael Muller. The illustrations are a combination of artwork and actual pictures of Mirabelle, the author's Boston Terrier dog.
Isn't Mirabelle the cutest? 

3. Snuggle Puppy! OK, really all Sandra Boynton dogs are big hits in our house! From her book Doggies to Dog Train, we love Sandra Boynton dogs; however if we had to choose a favorite, Snuggle Puppy would win.

2. Big Dog ... Little Dog by P.D. Eastman. P.D. Eastman captures the heart of what a little child loves about dogs in both Big Dog...Little Dog and Go, Dog. Go! A throwback from my childhood, I am thrilled to relive them through my daughter's eyes.

1. Skippyjon Jones! OK, I know what you are thinking, "Skippyjon Jones is a cat!" You are right, but nobody dreams of being a dog more than the dear Skippyjon Jones. Judy Schachner struck gold when she created this lovable and hysterical character. You and your child will be in stitches as you read the adventures of this creative pup, ahem, I mean cat.

What are your favorite books that have dogs in them? Leave a comment below. I am always looking for new books with dogs to read to my toddler.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Beautiful Butterfly Costume

We are big fans of Eric Carle's The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Little Miss J loves to stick her little fingers in each of the holes on the pages where the Hungry Caterpillar eats the different fruits and vegetables. We had the Decatur Book Festival children's book parade to attend in early September, and my oldest thought it would be fun to have the Little Miss go as the Hungry Caterpillar. She wanted to be a princess, but we settled on her going as the butterfly in the end. She didn't want to be a multicolored butterfly like in the book. Ever the scientist in training, she had to go as an actual butterfly. Getting into the Halloween spirit, since we are going to reuse the costumes we made for that parade for Halloween, I thought it would be fun to share how they were made.

To create the costume, I turned, of course, to Pinterest for sweet inspiration. That is where I found a very creative Hungry Caterpillar costume to use as a starting point. I love this costume, but my Little Miss is far too short for it to work. Instead, I decided a pillow case style dress would work great as an alternative. So, I found this pattern on Pinterest to use: The butterfly costume was a bit more complicated, but I will get to that later.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar Costume
What you need:
I am not a super crafty person. Actually, I had to teach myself how to thread my sewing machine to do this. So, if I can do it, so can you.

To make the hat, I used a loom to knit a hat out of the red yarn. The loom kit I purchased from the craft store had instructions on how to make a hat that were very easy to follow.

The hardest part of the hat was figuring out how to make the eyes, nose, and Antennae. So this is how I did it-
Eyes- Two layers with a bottom yellow and the top a multicolored yarn. With the yellow- I cast on four purl stitches, and did two rows of four, then four rows of six stitches, two rows of eight stitches, four rows of six stitches, and then two rows of four stitches. I did this twice to make two eyes. For the multicolored pupil of the eye, I cast on four stitches, did four rows of four, four rows of six stitches, and then four more rows of six stitches. Finally, I sewed them together and then onto the hat. (Make sure to put the hat on your kid before placing the eyes though, because it will make a difference on how it looks on their head.)

For the nose, I just made a small square using the multicolored yarn and then stitched it below the eyes. Depending on the size of your hat, it will be about six stitches across and about 8 rows.

Finally, for the Antennae, I stitched large rectangles, purling about 20 stitches across and approximately 26 rows. I took the rectangles and sewed them together to make tubes. The tubes I stuffed with a small amount of poly-fill to help them stand up, and then I sewed the antennae to the hat. 

The dress, as I said, I followed the instructions on the Cute Tutes blog. (And I think I may go out this weekend and make that dress in the candy corn style for Halloween- it was that easy.)

The Very Beautiful Butterfly Costume

This costume was very much a labor of love by both my oldest and myself. To make this costume, you will need:
  • Four wire coat hangers
  • White tissue paper
  • Gesso
  • Elmer's Glue
  • Mod Podge
  • Acrylic Paints and Paint brushes
  • Elastic (for the straps)
  • A fat square of black fabric to cover the elastic for the straps
  • JB Weld (epoxy)
  • Ribbon for the skirt
  • Several yards of tulle (we used black and orange)
  • A leotard 
  • Plain black headband
  • Black Pom Poms
  • Pipe Cleaners

To make the wings-

I took four wire coat hangers and shaped them into the frame for the wings.

My husband wanted to reinforce where I wrapped the "hooks" together in the middle to make sure it wouldn't fall apart, so he used JB Weld (an epoxy) to secure them.

After the frames were made, we took sheets of white tissue paper and carefully wrapped them around the wire, painting Elmer's glue and water (equal parts) on the tissue paper to create the paper thin, wrinkled look of a wing. I allowed the wings to dry over night, and then added a second sheet of tissue paper to make sure they wouldn't tear. After the wings were made, I decided, since I happened to have some in the house, to use Gesso to paint a "surface" onto the wings to accept the acrylic paint. This is really optional, since I am sure the paint would have stuck to the tissue paper just fine. However, I liked the added texture the Gesso added.

Once the wings were ready, we used a picture of a Monarch butterfly to draw the pattern, and then we used acrylic paints to decorate the wings. (My daughter added some glitter, because what would an art project be without the use of glitter?)

Finally, we painted the wings with Mod Podge to protect them from humidity and to add this fantastic shine. These are the finished wings:

To attached the wings to my daughter, I took elastic and measured it around her shoulders. She didn't like how it looked with the white elastic against her black leotard, so we took some black fabric to line the elastic and create a way to attach the straps to the wings.
To make the antennae, we took a plain black headband and wrapped pipe cleaners around it. Then, using a hot glue gun, we stuck big, fat, black pom poms to the top.

Finally, we made a no-sew TuTu for a skirt following this tutorial (which I found on Pinterest). I loved this tutorial, especially the link to the video. It was so easy, and I will be using it again in the future to made other skirts I am sure I will need, since I have two girls.

The day before my daughter wore it, we took the leftover tulle and made hair ribbons and added decorations to the headband.

(Now that I finished this costume, I think I am going to do this activity I saw on My Little Bookcase to make these adorable beads inspired by The Very Hungry Caterpillar.  I LOVE this blog and the amazing ideas she posts.)

What do you think? If you make this costume, please let me know how it works!

Page after Page Bookstore, Elizabeth City, North Carolina

 Last week we had the pleasure of heading to Elizabeth City, North Carolina for a wedding. While there, we spent some time at this adorable indie bookstore- Page After Page.

Tucked in the adorable town of Elizabeth City, right off the water, this bookstore has a fantastic children's books section that includes toys and a train table. The Little Miss loved playing with the "ChooChoo's" while I perused the latest in books.

We left with a bunch of items, but in particular, I fell in love with this "The Very Hungry Caterpillar" Onsie, the Melissa and Doug gears toy, and of course another dog book for the Little Miss- Biscuit is Thankful.
I love falling in love with a new bookstore. We do not have any Indie bookstores in our town, and I would love for one to pop up in our square someday. What do you love the most about Indie Bookstores?

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The Giving Tree- An Open Letter to the Amazing Women in My Life

This morning I had a moment. A moment when I thought to myself, after sitting in traffic for over an hour to go only six miles on my morning commute into work, "How did I get here?'
Then I thought, "Damn, I already finished my coffee."
And then I thought, "I really hope traffic clears because I have to go to the bathroom something fierce."
As I sat there in my car, bored and frustrated, with a full bladder, my mind wandered to a passage from the book Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf...
And this morning, I thought..It is very dangerous to live even one day. If Virgina Woolf had lived today, I imagine that the character of Mrs. Dalloway would spend her hours sitting in traffic contemplating life's greater questions instead of a parlor.

It is so easy to get caught up in fulfilling my perceived expectations as a woman, as a mother, as a wife, as an employee that I often loose sight of what my very own expectations of my life were, are, could potentially be...and that is dangerous.

We are so busy rushing around to take care of our kids, our husbands, our homes, our work, and our obligations, whatever they may be, that we forget to take care of ourselves. The women I know give their all to this thing we call life- they worry and fret over every detail from unanswered emails for work to missed recitals at school. 

But, it is difficult in this attempt to take care of those things that we love more than ourselves not to end up as a stump.More times than I would like to admit, I have found myself bleary eyed, sleep deprived, crying in my car at the impossible feats I have to accomplish in one day. And it is in those moments I feel like a stump. 
What do I mean by feeling like a stump? 

First, I have a confession- I simply detest reading The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein.  The books starts off innocently enough when this tree loves a little boy very much more than she ever loved herself. And that is something I think all the women I know can relate to.

We all have something or someone we have loved more than ourselves. The problem is, though, that this tree kept giving so much of herself that by the end of the book she was only a stump.
 And that is stupid.
 I think Shel Silverstein meant for the book to be ironic, but I worry about how the message may be interpreted. Will my girls interpret the expectation to be that we as women should give selflessly until there is nothing left to give? Unfortunately, stump is really no longer any help to herself or anyone else when every piece of her has been cut away.

Thinking of the many times that I have ended up as a stump from spreading myself far too thin trying to be everything to everyone, again my thoughts turned back to Virginia Woolf. My freshman year of college I attended an all girls school where we had to read A Room of One's Own by Virginia Woolf for our Freshman colloquium. At 18, I understood nothing about having a room of one's own. At 18, I could do anything, and I had no obligations

But years later, I understand. My heart aches for a room of one's own.

Rereading the text, I am struck by how relevant the book is even today. I want to destroy the illusion of what I am supposed to be, what I imagine others think I should be, and what society thinks I should be, and instead somehow find the courage to become the person I know I can become.

 I often find myself saying, "I cannot afford the time to do things for myself." However, I realize I should instead be saying, "I cannot afford to not take the time to do something just for myself."

The other day I went for a run in the woods.
It was a much needed respite for the daily rush- it is my equivalent of a room of one's own.
During my run, I came across this tree.
I was struck by the bent shape of the trunk. I spent some time thinking about the shape of the trunk, and how it appeared that the tree bent itself to be able to reach the sunlight. It was then that it occurred to me that no matter how firmly rooted we may feel in our current situation, even this tree with its roots firmly stuck in the ground was able to find a way to reroute itself to find the sun.

We owe it to all those amazing people and things that we love more than ourselves to take the time to reroute towards the sun so that we may continue not only giving of ourselves but to also show others how to reach for the sun. 

May you find a way to reroute yourself to reach towards the sun, even on the darkest of days.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Read Aloud! Grow, Brains, Grow- 10 Ways to Read to a Busy Toddler

Today marks the beginning of Read Aloud's October campaign to get all parents reading with their kids at least 15 minutes a day. Of course I want to help grow my child's brain! I am completely on board with this message and the organization. However, getting a 16 month old toddler to sit still for a whole book can prove to be quite a feat! In our house we have found some fun ways to keep even the busiest of toddlers interested. Here are the top ten ways I get my Little Miss J to sit still and listen for 15 minutes each night before bed:

1. Begin book reading in the bath. We have this fabulous Sandra Boynton book that is made for bringing in the bath- Bath Time! The best part is the squeaky toy on the last page.
 2. Find books that create play. We have this soft cloth version of Are You My Mother? by P.D. Eastman. There is a little bird that you can make fly all the way through the book. It is great for reading and playing at the same time.

3. Find books that feel squishy. The publisher Usborne makes this fabulous series of books that have all sorts of textures for a child to feel. My daughter loves That's Not My Dinosaur.  Her favorite page is the rough horns of the triceratops.

4. Sing your bedtime story. We have this very old and worn version of Row, Row, Row Your Boat by Pippa Goodhart. If my little one has a case of the wiggles, singing to her is one way to capture her attention.

5. Play peek-a-boo. We love the book Puppy Boo! by Sarah Phillips. Little ones love playing peek-a-boo, and what better way to make reading fun then to shout boo over and over.

6. Make animal noises. My daughter LOVES dogs right now so we read Doggies by Sandra Boynton at least three times a night because we get to make 10 different doggie sounds. Her favorite is howling to the moon.

7. Count the animals. Candlewick Press has this gorgeous picture book One Spotted Giraffe- A Counting Pop-up Book by Petr Horacek. Not only can you count the animals on each page, but there are also flaps that you can turn over to see a large pop-up version of the number.

8. Read books with moving parts. Matthew Van Fleet is a genius when it comes to books with engaging moving parts. We love his book Sniff! My only complaint I would have about this book is there is a picture of a mouse sniffing a peanut hanging from a vine. The scientist in me would be remiss if I didn't mention that peanuts grow underground.

9. Read and build. We received one of the Duplo Read and Build storybooks as a gift. Little Miss J loves to play with the blocks while we read through the book. I think she really enjoys making what she can see on the page; however she enjoys taking them apart even more.

10. Read what they love. My little one LOVES balls and dogs. For this reason, Mirabelle and the Bouncy Red Ball by Michael Muller is our all time favorite book at the moment. We met Mirabelle and Michael Muller at the Decatur Book Festival, and I have been in love with his board books ever since.

How do you get your toddler to sit still and read?

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Marietta Reads! - A Beautiful Saturday in the Park

The past several weeks I have been living in survival mode. The weekends have been solely used as a time to try and unearth myself from a mountainous pile of dirty clothing and somehow make the house clean enough to live in. Which, this is why today was so great. What a gorgeous day here in Metro-Atlanta! We went downtown to play at an awesome playground with some great friends first thing this morning. After lots of trips down the slide, we headed home. A short nap later, we drove over to Marietta Square to check out the Marietta Reads! annual kick-off event. This event provides a variety of literacy resources, a book fair, adorable book characters, and lots of fun activities for the kids. This is such a great event for families!

Here is just a glimpse of our afternoon...
The book fair is really heaps of boxes of books that are free! Yes, these are old, worn, well-loved books that have been donated so that they might find another reader.
My oldest is showing my little Miss J a couple of books we might just bring home.
An adorable Freshman at Marietta High read my little Miss J a book while I helped my oldest made a special bookmark.
Decorating bookmarks is serious work.
A Beautiful Saturday in Glover Park in Marietta Square.
So much to see and do!
My oldest LOVED the dancing.
The lovely "loot" my girls picked out from the free book fair.

We had fun reading through all the books we brought home today. I think my favorite out of the pile the girls brought home was Roald Dahl's The Giraffe and The Pelly and Me. (We actually did not have this Roald Dahl book.) There were lots of giggles tonight reading that book, mostly because my oldest was tickled she got to say the word Damn while reading about 10 different ways.

And I will leave you with the final line from that book because it is awesome:
"No book ever ends
When it’s full of your friends
The Giraffe and the Pelly and me."- Roald Dahl

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