Category Archives: Great Books for Children

When You Know Better, You Do Better

I recently had Mohs surgery to remove yet another basal cell carcinoma, a type of skin cancer.  This one resulted in 8 stitches on the left side of my nose.  The vain side of me is pretty upset that I now have a one-inch scar on the most prominent part of my face.  The tiny, red spot appeared only a month or so before my annual skin exam, so that was the plus side.  Since it was caught early, the size of the area removed is much smaller than it would have been a year from now.

Unfortunately, I have had many of these skin cancers over the last 25 years.  I grew up at the beach, and with fair skin, blue eyes, and reddish brown hair, I was a magnet for sunburns.  I have had more than my fair share of them.  Sunscreen wasn’t really a known product when I was a child, only tanning oils.  I do remember my mom slathering a blob of zinc oxide on my nose as a young child on occasion, but only on occasion.  I have many memories of using lots of Noxema, and sometimes vinegar to help stop the pain from the inevitable sunburns I would get after a day at the beach.

After my first basal cell removal at age 20, I became more aware of protecting my skin.  Since then, I use sunscreen and wear hats when I am outside for  long periods of time.  It was hard for me having grown up in an area where people regularly compare arms side-by-side to see who has the better tan.  I have now lived in an area away from the beach for almost thirty years, so the pressure to have a tan is less than it was when I lived at the beach, but it still somewhat exists.  I have decided that having healthier skin is more important than having temporary “color” in the warmer months.  I know that the more I stay out of the sun, the fewer skin cancers I will have, and the lower my chances are of developing a melanoma, which can be life threatening.  I understand that another benefit of staying out of the sun is that I will (hopefully) have fewer wrinkles when I am older– not a bad thing at all!

When my skin cancers started surfacing, I went through a period of being upset that my parents didn’t do more to protect my skin.  I was mad that they let me spend long days at the beach without regard for my skin and the burns that would result.  It took me a while to realize that they honestly didn’t know any better.  Once I knew better about the hazards of sun exposure, I made better choices.  I now wear sunscreen every single day, and I wear hats when I am outside for a period of time.

This is a good lesson for everyone, young and old– when you know better, you do better.   Everyone makes mistakes.  I know I have made many mistakes as a parent, but I hope that when I know better, I do better.   I have tried to instill this lesson in my children since they were young, and hopefully they will do the same for their children.

Now I am going to put on my sunscreen, my hat, and enjoy the rest of this beautiful day.

What we are reading now:

Me:  Wonder by R.J. Palacio

My son (14):  Baseball Great by Tim Green (he has read this many times)

My daughter (11):  The Penderwicks at Point Mouette by Jeanne Birdsall– she just HAD to reread this series 🙂

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Filed under Great Books for Children, Parenting, Something to think about

Junior Fashionista on the Scene

I can’t say I wasn’t warned.  From the time my nine-year-old daughter was born, I have loved buying clothes for her.  To me, she has always looked like a pink, girly girl.  It was fun to buy things for her that were smocked, monogrammed, pink, and girly, and she never hesitated to let me dress her in them, or later, dress herself in them.  I remember a friend, who had also had a pink, girly girl, mentioning to me that I should be prepared for the day that my daughter rejects all the adorable clothes in favor of a style that just doesn’t make sense.  I didn’t want to believe her.  I do now.

My daughter has slowly, over the last year, moved away from the cute, girly look, to one that is, well, I’m not sure. I believe she is striving to be more fashionable.  I noticed this summer as we went through her clothes in anticipation for the fall, that her taste had changed.  Many outfits she had selected a year or so ago, no longer held the same appeal.  The problem for me was that these outfits still fit.  I strongly encouraged her to keep them in her closet, and make a point to wear them since they looked great on her.  Her response?  An eye roll, sigh, and a “maybe.”

I know this is a normal part of growing up.  I realize that she has a mind of her own that is working to express her authentic self as it develops.  She pays close attention to what other girls wear: her peers, older girls and girls in the media.  Sometimes I think she is trying to grow up too fast.  She steers as far away as possible from anything she thinks makes her look like, in her words, a “baby.”  She knows that it is important to always be appropriate for her age, but that doesn’t stop her from asking to buy things that she knows pushes the envelope. She also cares a great deal what her older brother thinks about her clothes, and often asks him what he thinks about her outfit for the day.  Even a slight look of question from him will lead her right back to her closet.  She has told me that he knows more about what is “cool” to wear.

I know this is but another stage for my daughter.  My son also went through this same stage.  He wore gym shorts and t-shirts for the last several years almost every day, much to my chagrin.  He wouldn’t have dreamed of wearing khakis and polo shirts, unless he had to “dress up” for an occasion.  Recently, however, I have seen a change in him.  He has worn, without prompting from me, polo shirts and khakis to school several days during the week.  I am happy to see the nicer attire, and see that yes, it does come full circle in time.

Maybe the turn-around will be sooner for my daughter.  Just this morning I encouraged her to take a look at one of the outfits she said she would “maybe” wear.  She decided to wear it, only with her Target brand Ugg-like boots…  she had to make sure the look was fashionable!  A nice compromise.  A start.

What we are reading:

Me: The Inner Game of Music by Barry Green

My son: Alex Rider: Crocodile Tears by Anthony Horowitz

My daughter:  Frankly Frannie by A.J. Stern

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Dad’s Failure Inspires Junior Chef

My daughter has been obsessed with cooking lately.  While she has always enjoyed helping me cook, her interest has grown to a whole new level.  I am thinking that my husband’s recent failed attempt at making biscuits (see post from July 9, 2011, Guest Post From Perfectionist Biscuit Maker) has something to do with this desire to cook more.  She commented that she could cook better than Dad, and wanted to prove it.  A week after the failed biscuits were served, she asked if she could use the same recipe that Dad tried, and make some “good” biscuits.  She experienced great success!

Superior Biscuits!

Now most mornings she comes downstairs and announces that she is making breakfast.  Then she scours the fridge and cabinets for inspiration.  On occasion she has asked for a little help, but generally she just calls us to the table when breakfast is ready.  Pretty impressive for a 9-year-old!

Added to her breakfast regimen is now a desire to prepare dinner.  Not just help with dinner, but prepare ALL of dinner, several times a week.  Just last night she prepared a delicious Roma tomato, fresh basil, and parmesan egg noodle pasta, complete with olive oil, sea salt and fresh ground pepper. She beamed as she served her meal.  We all beamed as we ate it!

I love that she has the interest, independence, and confidence to stretch her culinary skills.  It is interesting to me that she was seemingly inspired by her Dad’s “epic failure” with the biscuits.  Or could it be that she has an inherited competitive streak?  Most likely it is a combination of the two.  Whatever the reason(s), she is excited to cook, loves the challenge, and is having fun.  Isn’t that what learning is all about?


At the end of each blog post, I have decided to share a list of what books my children and I are currently reading, as well as a link to the author’s website so you can learn more about him/her.  I am hoping that this feature will provide book ideas for your children, as well as grown-up books for you to check out.  I would love to hear what your family is reading as well! I always love new book suggestions, and don’t think you can spread good news about good books too often!

What We’re Reading…

Me:  The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin.  Great book!  Check out her website at

My son (12):  The Big Field by Mike Lupica.  This is at least the third time he has read this book.  Check out Lupica’s website at .

My daughter (9):  Ramona and Her Mother by Beverly Cleary.  Check out Cleary’s website at .

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Filed under Cooking, Great Books for Children, Parenting

Peer Pressure Gone Right!

My children have discovered several new books that have completely captured them.  The Alex Rider series by Anthony Horowitz ( has grabbed hold of my son and won’t let go.  He has added this series to his group of all-time favorite series of books. One of his friends gave him the first book in the series at Christmas.  These two boys have always had a love of books, and the moms have enjoyed exchanging ideas of great books our boys would enjoy.  After my son devoured the first book, he checked the next one in the series out of his school library. His friend told him how much he loved the series, so that was a great motivator for him to read it ASAP.  Two days later he came home with another book, and for several weeks he always had one with him.  He was driven to read them all as quickly as possible, and started reading them again when he finished.  He constantly talked about how great they were. He must have even talked to his teacher about the book, because soon after he said his teacher was reading the first Alex Rider book aloud to the class.  Now that is a great teacher– he caught on to the enthusiasm my son had for this series and is now passing it along to the other students.

Recently I took my children to one of their most favorite places– the bookstore.  I think some people might wonder when I am asked what my children would like for a gift and I tell them a gift card to the bookstore, whether or not it is mom really wanting them to buy books.  Truth is, they beg to go on a regular basis.  They love to hang out there as much as I do.  Same story for the library.  We can’t get enough of being around books.  This trip my children both had gift cards and a definite plan of how to spend them.  My son walked out with four Alex Rider books.  He now owns all but the last one.  He was beyond excited and proudly found a home for them on his bookshelf.  What a great mommy moment.

My daughter purchased several more Beverly Cleary books (  She told me that  Ellen Tebbits and  Emily’s Runaway Imagination had no choice but to come home with us.  She just loves the Ramona books and said that Beverly Clearly is a really good author, so these books just had to be great, too.  All authors like to hear that!  She really enjoys funny books and stories that she can relate to as an 8 year old girl. Several months ago we bought all three Clementine books by Sara Pennypacker.  Now those are some funny books!  I even laughed aloud when I read them, and so did my daughter.  She talks about them all the time.  I volunteered to read a chapter book aloud to her class, and she begged me to choose Clementine.  I honored her request after she said she was SO SURE everyone, including the boys, would love it.  She said she had told everyone about it and they really wanted to hear it.  She was right.  The children were so excited when I arrived each week, and didn’t want me to stop reading when our time ended.  Many children had gotten the book and read it entirely between my visits– including boys!  That was a WOW for sure!  Never underestimate the power of children talking about books to their friends.  This kind of peer pressure can make such a powerful impact.  Let’s all make sure we maximize it.   Now, plan a trip to the bookstore or library with your children today!  Only good things can happen.

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Just for Boys

A few months ago, a friend invited my son to be a part of a new book club for boys.  I thought this was a fabulous idea.  I haven’t heard of too many book clubs just for boys.  I hear many comments about how it is difficult to get boys to read and there just aren’t enough good books for boys.  This book club is a wonderful way for boys to connect and enjoy great books.

My son was skeptical at first, not sure if he would like the books selected to read.  I later realized that he thought the moms were selecting all the books, and that made him a little concerned.  Once he discovered that the book club member hosting the next meeting would get to choose the book, he was relieved.  He also immediately started making his list of potential books for his turn to host.

One thing I really like about this book club is that the moms are encouraged to read the book as well, and they attend the meetings with their son.  The host’s mom offers refreshments upon arrival, then a craft or other activity related to the theme of the book, followed by the boys gathering to discuss the book.  The host’s mom has a list of questions for the boys to discuss.  I wasn’t sure how that part would go, but found that the boys’ conversation flowed naturally.  The first book chosen was not a book that any of them particularly liked, but they had a great time talking about it.  The second meeting went really well.  The boys all liked the book– The Million Dollar Putt by Dan Gutman (

The most recent book is the Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo ( .  My son finished it today and now it is my turn to read it.  I am looking forward to it!

Update on the puppy search… We met a breeder only two hours away from us that we really liked.  Their dogs are beautiful!  They really have a top notch breeding program there.  An added bonus, we got to see and play with some 4 1/2 week old puppies.  They were precious!  My children LOVED playing with them and meeting the older dogs, too.  Now we are on the waiting list for the next litter.  We are hopeful that the perfect puppy for our family will be in that litter! 

We have also been watching taped episodes of the Dog Whisperer EVERY night.  I think we have all got the “puppy bug” really bad.  Actually, I think my husband might have it the worst.  He is completely consumed and is spending all his spare time researching dogs and all that you need to learn about them.  I have even noticed that he has starting parenting like Cesar handles his dogs.  He had a discussion with our son this evening about an undesirable behavior he noticed him exhibiting.  My husband told him that his behavior wasn’t acceptable to the rest of the pack (our family).  He went on to tell our son that when the pack noticed this behavior,  the pack would move away from him until he became calm and respectful.  Yes, my husband has it real bad.  The puppy can’t get here too soon!

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Getting back on track

I can’t believe that it has been so long since I last posted.  My intentions really were good when I said I wanted to post more often.  I guess I let too many things get in the way.  Like many busy moms working to build their careers, I try to juggle too many balls at once.  Sometimes I do it well, and sometimes I don’t.  So, this is a new day.  A new post. 

I can’t believe that it is the end of the school year already.  My children are very excited about summertime and the prospect of announcing they are in the next grade after tomorrow.  A big deal to be in the 2nd and the 5th grades!  They have had super busy weeks leading up to the end of school.  I have heard several other moms say that this time of year is even busier than the holidays.  I believe I have bought into that belief as well.

Now the challenge to have a fun summer for us all while finding time to still write.  My son said he wanted to do a lot of relaxing and having fun.  My daughter said she wanted to play a lot.  They both said that they don’t want me to work any, but to play with them and do fun things with them.  That can all be a tricky order to fill.  Fortunately, I have signed them up for a few activities this summer, allowing me several good windows of time to work.  I will have to make sure I use this time well.

One thing my children and I recently accomplished is a complete reorganization of their bedrooms.  We cleaned out mounds of things that they didn’t play with anymore, and rearranged all that remained.  Both of them wanted their books organized more like a library so they could find things better.  I told them I just couldn’t bring myself to getting that detailed with it, so we agreed on categorizing the books in our own way.  The result was two children thrilled with seeing all their books in an orderly set-up.  My daughter said that one of the things she wanted to do was read all of her books from the top of the shelf to the bottom.  We started this project some months ago, but she kept being pulled away by the Ivy and Bean books and American Girl books.  She said we needed to start over and make that a good goal for the summer. 

My son’s biggest thrill with books lately has been the arrival of the 5th Percy Jackson book, The Last Olympian   To prepare for this book’s release, he re-read the third and fourth books.  He had saved a gift card from his birthday to purchase the book.  I told him that I had a coupon for the book, saving 40% off of the cover, plus we got a 10% member’s discount.  He asked me to print this coupon and then proceeded to cut out the coupon (multiple coupons were on the page), tape it to the inside of his gift card, and place it all in my purse with a note reminding me to please get the new book TODAY!  Couldn’t tell a bit that he was excited.

He did read the book within the first two days.  He would have finished it the first day if he didn’t have to go to sleep.   The review on the book from my son is that it is AWESOME!  He has since re-read the entire series, and read the 5th book two more times.  I do love his enthusiasm.

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A post, finally!

Finally, I am posting again!   When I first started my blog in April, I found myself super excited and full of wonderful ideas about what to share in cyberspace.  I even noticed that most every day I would “write”  daily posts in my head.  The problem was making the time to actually type them into my computer.  I let everything else in my life crowd out any extra moment I could have used to sit at the computer and post.  Notice I said making the time instead of finding the time.  I am taking responsibility and not blaming my hectic schedule for not posting.  I think it is like everything in life, you make time for it if it is important.  So, after some thinking and fussing with myself, I’ve decided that yes, I really do want to do this blog thing! 

So, that being said, let me begin!

Update on the books my children are reading…  My daughter is doing really well in the reading department and has moved from an emerging reader to fully independent and enjoying chapter books on her own.   She still anticipates story time with Mom or Dad, even her brother (at moments when he decides to be sweet to her), as do I!  Her latest book is Ivy and Bean by  Annie Barrows, .  She brought it home from her school library and started reading it in the car as soon as I picked her up that same day.  It is an adorable book!  I have no doubt that we will be reading the other Ivy and Bean books as well. We have been working a lot on pausing between sentences and using proper voice inflections to make the dialogue more realistic.  She is enjoying this and looks forward to reading aloud to me each day to “show” me how she can be the characters with her voice.  She has decided that with some books she wants to read aloud, some I am to read aloud to her, and others we take turns each page.  I think I am enjoying this stage as much as she is!

Another new project we have taken on is to read every book in her “library” from the top left hand corner of the first bookcase to the bottom right hand corner of the second bookcase.  Believe me, she has a lot of books.  She commented last night that it was a pretty big job to read all the books we have, but she couldn’t wait to read them all again.  Now that is enthusiasm!

My son has read so many books since I first posted that I couldn’t even begin to list them all.  He has, since my last post, read the four Percy Jackson books by Rick Riordan at least 5 more times, in between reading some new titles as well as re-reading some favorites.  He has discovered an easy, hysterical read with the Hank Zipzer books, ,  by SCBWI’s Lin Oliver and Henry Winkler (formerly the “Fonz” on Happy Days, for those, including myself,  old enough to fondly remember those days).  His new exciting book is Rick Riordan’s Maze of the Bones, the first in a ten book series called The 39 Clues,,

If you are like me, it is tough to see your children fail to meet a goal or deadline.  My son recently had a project at school to do.  He had to prepare a timeline of his life, including pictures and special things he remembered about being a particular age.  He was given the assignment two weeks ago while he was home sick.  I had picked up his work and this assignment was included in the stack.  I went through everything with him and mentioned that the timeline wasn’t due for a few weeks, but his teacher wanted him to being thinking about it and even jot down some notes.  The due date was three days ago.  He had no timeline. 

I was a little surprised as he has always taken pride in completing his work on time.  At his school there is a big emphasis on taking responsibility for your schedule and work, as well as keeping it all organized.  I remembered that this assignment was due, but chose to let the natural consequenses play out in this situation.  That was hard for me.  I know that he has to learn these skills early on, or school will be more challenging to him as the years progress.   He came home yesterday saying that he and a few others in his group hadn’t completed the assignment, and had until next Monday to finish it.  I’m going to try hard to not say anything.  We’ll see what happens!

I’ll save the rest of my thoughts ’til tomorrow!  Have a great day!

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Reading machines

My children love books.  They have been exposed to reading since they were born.  Even before they were born, my husband and I read books to them.  When I was pregnant with my son, I  read about an experiment done with reading to unborn children, and I was intrigued, so we tried it.   Since my son learned to read, he has carried a book with him wherever he goes.  We started calling him a reading machine several years ago, and he continues to live up to this title.  My daughter is an emerging reader and recently told my husband and me that she wanted to be a reading machine like her brother.  Well, that was music to my ears! 

My son is re-reading  the series by Rick Riordan, .  He devoured The Lightning Thief in one day while we were on vacation, and couldn’t wait until we returned home to get the second book, Sea of Monsters.  He had a gift card for our local Barnes & Noble, which he promptly used to buy Sea of Monsters.  He recently got the third book, The Titan’s Curse, which he read the first day he got it.  I was intrigued with what I saw the next day, however.  I noticed that he picked up The Lightning Thiefand was reading it again.  I asked him why he chose that book again when he still had several other new books he hadn’t read yet, and he told me that he had to read all three books in a row without stopping.  He said they were so exciting he just couldn’t stop reading them.  Wow, what a great testamonial for Rick Riordan and his writing! 

 My daughter just turned six and loves, loves, loves Fancy Nancy, , so a Fancy Nancy birthday party was in order!  She invited five friends, all dressed fancy, of course, to her party.  We had fancy pizza,  parfaits (fancy for ice cream sundaes) , fancy cake, and played fancy games.  She wanted to read all three of the Fancy Nancy books that we have, Fancy Nancy, Fancy Nancy and The Posh Puppy, and Fancy Nancy, Bonjour Butterfly, so we had an extended storytime.  The goody bags had a copy of  Fancy Nancy and the Boy from Paris, sparkly sunglasses, “diamond” sparkly star wand, and a sparkly crown.  I think all the girls had quite the fancy time!  It was exciting to share a great series of children’s books with other children!

I love sharing book ideas with others, especially children’s books.  I look forward to sharing what my children are reading on my blog.   I will also share my children’s comments or impressions of the books they read, as well as books I read and have enjoyed.  Word of mouth is the best way to learn about great books for children!

Mindful moment:  Lately my children have been getting to bed later than normal due to spring break.  As a result, I hear myself telling them at night that they need to get to sleep, and it is too late to read.  Last night I caught myself before I repeated this new pattern, and remembered how important my storytime or reading time before bed was to me growing up.   My daughter and I  chose a book that we had been talking about recently, one of The Berenstain Bears books, My son heard me reading and called out that he wanted to hear it too, so he got out of bed and joined us as I read.  It really was a great 10 minutes and nice reminder to me that those extra 10 minutes wouldn’t make a big difference to them getting up in the morning, but might make a positive addition to their childhood memories.

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