November 5, 2013

Kid Lit Blog Hop #27

Welcome to the 27th Kid Lit Blog Hop. We have come a long way since then with many familiar faces that visit on a regular basis as well as new bloggers and authors who join us all the time. All in all, we have managed to create a dynamic and engaged community of children's books bloggers, authors, publishers, and publicists, as well as parents seeking out their next great read. So, if you haven't joined us in a while, please pop in a post and hop around to meet some of the new bloggers who have joined the Hop. If you are one of our regulars - thank you so much and Happy Hopping to all! Joining us as co-hostesses this week is Ang from Juggling Act Mama and Stefani from Our Barefoot Adventures. Nice to have you again Ang and a big welcome to Stefani who is joining us for the first time as co-hostess! Please be sure to give each of our hostesses a visit to say a quick hello and we'll be sure to visit you right back!

Happy Hopping everyone and enjoy the Hop!


Kid Lit Giveaway Hop Holiday Extravaganza

As part of our Kid Lit community of bloggers and authors, we wanted to share with you information about the Kid Lit Giveaway Hop Holiday Extravaganza to take place December 6th to 13th, 2013. This event is hosted by Katie from Youth Literature Reviews and Renee from Mother Daughter Book Reviews. If you are a blogger who features children's or young adult literature looking to share copies of a fabulous book winter-themed or holiday-themed book (Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, etc), you are welcome to link up. Just click on the button below. Sign-ups are on-going until November 30, 2013. Kid Lit Giveaway Hop Holiday Button  

Kid Lit Blog Hop Rules *Please Read*

1. We ask that you kindly follow your hostesses. You can follow us any way you choose (Email, GFC, Twitter, Facebook, G+, Pinterest, etc.), but we've added our preferences below. If you could just give us a quick "follow" or "like" that would be much appreciated! Make sure to leave us a message if you are following us (i.e., on Twitter or Facebook or on our websites) and we will be sure to follow you back. Thanks! :-)
2. Link up any Kid Lit related post. This can be a link to a children’s book review, a discussion about children’s literature/literacy, or a post on a recently-read children’s book or one that you love from your childhood.
* Don't link directly to your blog, it must be a specific post*
* For Authors, we prefer you to link to your blog if you have one *
* Make sure you include an image relevant to the POST (e.g., book cover), not your blog button or photo of yourself.*
* Feel free to link more than one post.*
3. Please visit AT LEAST the TWO LINKS directly ahead of your own and leave them some love in the form of a comment. We are trying to build a community of bloggers, readers, parents, authors, and others who are as passionate about children’s literature as we are so please CONNECT and follow any or all of the blogs that interest you! 4. If you like, grab the button above and put it somewhere on your blog, preferably the post you're linking up. If you'd prefer, you can just add a text link back to this Hop so that others can find it and check out all these great book links! 5. It would really help us get the word out about the Kid Lit Blog Hop if you would be so kind as to tweet, share, and spread the word about the Hop!
Interested in co-hosting the Kid Lit Blog Hop? Please email renee @ motherdaughterbookreviews (dot) com and put Co-Hosting Blog Hop in the subject line.
Happy Hopping!

October 30, 2013

NaNoWriMo 2013: An Intro

I've heard about NaNoWriMo in the past and envied those that took the time to do it, so this year I decided to jump in and be one of those people myself. For those of you that don't know, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month - during the month of November, writers from all over the US join together to try to write 50,000 words in one month, which amounts to about 200 pages. As a very pregnant (is that a thing?) mom of one crazy toddler, I'm a bit nervous about taking this on, but I have a story that's been bouncing around my head and I just can't wait to get it written down.

There is a wonderful group of bloggers that will also be writing their own stories, so I've decided to link up with them every week to keep myself motivated. If you're participating, you should join in the fun!

My novel will be called The Road Less Traveled and will be based upon the life of my Great-Grandmother Hazel. I have bits and pieces of her history, so I'll be building the story around that. I'm so excited to delve deeper into her life and explore what she wants to be told. The short synopsis that I put on the NaNoWriMo site says,
At the age of 50, Hazel finds herself in the Warm Springs Mental Asylum in Montana, scheduled to have a lobotomy. She begins to recount the road that brought her to this end, including her life with an alcoholic father in Vermont, working at a factory in New York, marrying a soldier she barely knew, and moving cross-country to live on a ranch in Montana.
I've been trying to plan things out over the past week and I think that the biggest challenge I'll be dealing with is telling her whole story, without things getting tedious, especially since it will take place over such a large time period. I'm trying out a couple of ways of putting the story together, so hopefully I can get it all figured out!
Mostly, I'm just excited to get started writing and seeing what I come up with. It'll be a challenge, but a welcome one. 

Anyone else planning on participating? If you are, add me on NaNoWriMo!

October 28, 2013

5 Best YouTube Channels for Toddlers

You know that moment when you just need five minutes to get something done, and your kid just won't entertain themselves? We all have them. It's tough. It's in those moments that I pull out my secret weapon - YouTube.

YouTube videos are great, because most are just 4-5 minutes long and, if you know where to look, can be cute and educational. As always, it's important to make sure you're aware of what your kid is watching and that you limit their time. BUT it can be a miracle worker when you need it.

So, without further are our five favorite YouTube channels (along with the videos we like best from them):

1. Super Simple Songs - This is definitely our favorite - most of the songs are short, each one is educational, and they're not annoying to the point that you feel like pulling your hair out (because that can be a problem). Josie sings these songs all the time, even when she's not watching the videos! Our favorites: Old McDonald Had a Farm and Walking in the Jungle.

2. Sesame Street - Of course we love Sesame Street! On their YouTube channel, you can watch short clips or full episodes - we have the show on Amazon Prime and Josie watches it some mornings, but it's nice to be able to see the clips she loves over...and over... :-) (Also, check out Sesame Street Classics. It's pretty amazing as well.) Our favorites: Share It, Maybe? and any Journey to Ernie.

October 25, 2013

Friday Favorites #1

Happy Friday! This weekend, we're taking a family trip to the pumpkin patch and apple orchard and I couldn't be more excited. I'm also participating in my first vendor event for Barefoot Books! Wish me luck...

Meanwhile, here are a few things I found and loved this week...

I can't wait to try my hand at one of these maxi skirts that Lisa made for her girls.

Also, these stuffed pumpkins are adorable and I'm hoping I have enough time to throw some together before Halloween.

Oliver + S is talking about how to choose the right fabric on their blog, which is fantastic, because I'm always at a loss.

I was in love with Vintage Books My Kid Loves and I'm so excited to start following Graphic Novels My Kid Loves.

Love this post about creating a family rhythm.

I'm dying to make these pumpkin cranberry rolls - it'll probably happen way before Thanksgiving, too.

Isn't this watercolor leaf garland adorable (and the perfect toddler craft)?

Gretchen recently participated in the Beauty Revealed Project with her mom and they took some awesome pictures.

And finally, Josie's favorite Halloween-themed YouTube video - and it's cute!

Have a wonderful weekend, friends!

October 23, 2013

I Love Fall


I already wrote a post about how awesome fall is on our family blog...but I feel the need to sing its praises once again. Because, really, isn't fall the best? 

Specifically, I love...

Pumpkins (and pumpkin bread, and pumpkin pie)

Apple Cider

Stepping on crunchy leaves

Chilly morning walks

Sweater weather

Hot cocoa

And...I'm sure there's more. It's just my favorite. :-)

What are your favorite things about fall?

October 22, 2013

Celebrating the Day of the Dead

As much as I love going door-to-door to get free candy, I'm even more enamored with the concepts behind the Day of the Dead. Growing up, we never celebrated this holiday (probably because it's not observed here in the States), but the more I read the more I find that I would love to develop some family traditions surrounding it.

The Day of the Dead is typically celebrated in Mexico and Latin America around the same time as Halloween, although many countries throughout the world have similar celebrations. Its whole idea is celebrating and honoring those that have passed on and really taking the fear out of death. As "scary" as the traditional Dias de los Muertos skulls may seem, the bright colors that surround the holiday are symbolic of the celebration of life and its cycle, which eventually ends in death.

As a member of the LDS church, I believe that death is truly a celebration, because it symbolizes the freedom from the trials of this life. Even though I miss my grandparents and loved ones that have left this Earth, I know that I will have the opportunity to see them again someday and I love doing Family History research to learn even more about the lives that they lived. 

I've been researching the various traditions from other cultures that are used to celebrate ancestors and those that have passed on - of those, there are definitely a few that I would love to adapt for our own family!

Creating an altar for the deceased

In our family, I think this would involve finding photographs of our ancestors, lighting candles, and displaying them somewhere in our house. Nothing too fancy, but something that could bring our attention to the lives that were lived before us. 

Have a big harvest meal and telling stories of our ancestors

I would love to have this as a tradition! In Mexican culture, the stories that are told are often funny and joyful, because they don't believe that the dead want to be thought of in a somber manner. The harvest meal actually comes from the Samhain tradition, which celebrates the end of Autumn and the harvest, but I would love to add a huge meal on October 31st or November 1st, where we could tell stories and enjoy family. 

Make pan de muerto and sugar skulls

Wouldn't it be fun to make these traditional Mexican foods for the holiday season? The pan de muerto is traditionally eaten at parties, festivals, and graveyards, although it is also offered at the altar of the deceased, to nourish them in the next life. I found a recipe for it here and just might be trying it next week. 

Go to the cemetery with flowers and candles

I have a confession - I love cemeteries. It probably stems from when my family would take Sunday walks through the nearby cemetery and I would look at the gravestones, trying to figure out when the person was alive and died. I think there's something magical about them - hopefully that's not too morbid. I'm hoping to take a family trip to the cemetery in the next few weeks, so we can clean off gravestones, place flowers by graves, and maybe light some candles, as another way to honor and remember the dead. 

I'm sure our family's celebration of "Day of the Dead" will differ a lot from the traditional celebration, but I really want to make Halloween more of a celebration than just costumes and candy. I am constantly in awe by the lives that came before mine and the benefits that I receive from my ancestors, even years after they have left this Earth. I would love to develop a time to help Josephine, and all our other kids, celebrate and remember those lives. 

How about you: do you celebrate the Day of the Dead? What do you do?

October 21, 2013

Technology and Education: Great Apps for Kids

So, last week I talked about technology and how to approach it when it comes to our kids. The truth is, there is a lot of great stuff out there, especially in terms of apps. Josephine and I have some favorite i-Pad apps that are both educational and a whole lot of fun. And the great thing? Every single one is under $5!

October 17, 2013

5 Ways to Inspire Future Readers

When I became a mom, I got a lot of nighttime nursing time to read. I'm pretty sure I got through a book a week back then...and then the breastfeeding stopped and (sadly) the reading slowed way down. As my little girl's growing up, though, I've seen her love for books and I've decided that if I want that to continue - I need to show her how much I love books, too! It's hilarious how she does everything I do lately, and I think that setting an example of reading will really sink in. So...without further ado...

Bring a book/e-reader wherever you go

Bring one for you and one for your kid. When you're at a doctor's appointment, or waiting for the car to get the oil can both read! If your kid doesn't want to read, at least you have made the impression that reading is important to you and you want to keep a book around, just in case.

Check out things at the library for yourself AND your kids

Josie and I take a trip to the library every week and she always has a pile of books that she wants to bring home. I take the time to get books for her, but often forget books for myself! There are so many fun things to read out there, though, even it's just something new I want to learn about. Why not check out a few books for yourself while you're at it?

Have a quiet time where you both read your own books

Josie and I have time before bed where we read books together. Lately I've been seeing her reading on her own (oftentimes out loud, which is adorable), so I'll sit down and read my book while she's reading hers. It's such a fun time and I would love for it to become part of our routine.

Talk to your kids about what you're reading about

This is something that I have yet to do, but think about it - when we're staring at our picture-less pages, do our kids think we're reading anything exciting? When appropriate, we can share the stories we're reading with our kids, so they know that reading is fun even when you're older.

Make reading a priority

Above all, I know that it is so important to make reading a priority in my own life, so my child will make it a priority in hers. I'm a firm believer that there is a book for everyone, whether it's non-fiction or fiction, sci-fi or fantasy - find what you love to read and share it with your kids!

What are some ways that you share your love for reading with your kids?

October 16, 2013

Fun Fall Foods to Make with Kids

It's fall!! One of my favorite things to do with Josephine is to make fun foods and getting her involved. She loves mixing things, pouring things, and doing her own taste tests. It's such a fun mother-daughter time and I can't wait to make these three things together this month!

Apple Volcanoes (adapted from Kids' Kitchen)

4 apples
3 apricots
1/2 cup raisins
1/3 cup rolled oats or granola
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons butter
4 marshmallows

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Core the apples, making sure there is a big hole to fill, and then use a fork to prick the apple four times. Cut the apricots into small pieces and mix them with the oats or granola and the honey. Put the apples in a baking dish and stuff each with the apricot mixture. Put a pat of butter on top and bake apples for 25 minutes or until soft. Put a marshmallow on top of each apple and bake for 2 more minutes. Enjoy!

Pumpkin Bread (from the family recipe box)

1 1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup cooking oil
2 eggs
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 3/4 cup flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp each of cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice
1/3 cup water
1/2 cup raisins or chocolate chips

Add sugar to oil, then add eggs, pumpkin, spices and sifted flour, soda, salt, baking powder, water and raisins (or chocolate chips!). Mix and bake in muffin tins or a bread pan at 350 F for 50-60 minutes.

Cooking with kids tip - prepare to get messy!

Hot Chocolate (adapted from Kids' Kitchen)

cinnamon stick
4 3/4 cups milk
5 oz milk chocolate

Heat milk and cinnamon until almost boiling...but don't let it boil! Lower the heat just before, to keep the milk warm. Break the chocolate up and add to the milk. Stir well to melt. Serve with marshmallows or a candy cane!

For more fun recipes to make with kids, check out Kids' Kitchen - it's our favorite recipe source right now!

What are you excited to make with your kids this fall?

October 15, 2013

Our Top 10 Children's Books about Fall

Fall is my favorite season, and I love that there are plenty of books to introduce children to its many beauties. Here are ten of my favorites, all about fall foods, traditions, and seasonal changes. 

1. The Gigantic Turnip by Aleksei Tolstoy & Niamh Sharkey - A harvest folk tale from Russia about a farmer and his wife's attempt to unearth a larger-than-usual turnip, with illustrations that are reminiscent of Lane Smith.

2. The Apple Pie Tree by Zoe Hall - A book that will make you hungry for apple pie, all about the journey an apple takes from the tree to the pan.

3. Apples and Pumpkins by Anne Rockwell - The story of a little girl's trip to pick apples and pumpkins with her family, complete with a pumpkin carving party afterwards!

4. South by Patrick McDonnell - In this picture book with no words, Mooch the cat helps a young bird follow his family South. I absolutely love Patrick McDonnell's illustrations, too! (For more, check out Hug Time.)

5. The Little Yellow Leaf by Carin Berger - A beautiful story that tells the story of a little yellow leaf waiting to fall and compares it to preparing to leap into the unknown.

6. Autumnblings by Douglas Florian - A fantastic book of poetry for children, all about the autumn season.

7. Leaf Man by Lois Ehlert - A sweet story about a man made of leaves, carried around by the wind - and the illustrations are actually made of leaves! For another beautiful fall book, check out Lois Ehlert's Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf.

8. The Stranger by Chris van Allsburg - From the author that wrote The Polar Express and Jumanji, The Stranger tells about a farmer's encounter with the mysterious Jack Frost.

9. The Scarecrow's Hat by Ken Brown - This beautifully illustrated book tells the story of a chicken's quest to trade just enough items to get Scarecrow's straw hat.

10. Johnny Appleseed by Steven Kellogg - My very favorite retelling of Johnny Appleseed, by one of my most favorite authors (and illustrators).

What are your favorite books about fall? (Kid's or not!)

October 14, 2013

Technology and Education: The Rules

The older my daughter gets, the more technology becomes a part of her life. Before I was a parent, I was convinced that we'd have a tech-free environment 24/7, but the reality is that's just not practical! Our society is full of technological innovations that can be great for our kids, but they have to be used in moderation. As we've attempted to find some sort of balance, I've discovered a few "rules" that have worked for us. 

Know what your kids are doing 

I believe that this should always be a rule when it comes to technology. With the unlimited access there is online and even on TV, we should make sure that we know what our kids are doing when they are using these things. Whether it means spending that time with them, keeping parental controls on, or keeping the computer or TV in a public place, the only way we can ensure that our kids aren't being exposed to the bad stuff is making sure we are aware of what is going on. 

Apply the concepts from the technology to everyday life

Whether your kid learned about the letter "A" on Sesame Street, was playing a counting game on the iPad, or watched a video about animals on YouTube, make sure you are taking those concepts and applying them in their lives. There is learning to be done, but it can only happen if we as parents work to continue it after everything is powered down. When you're aware of what your kids are doing, you can easily see what ideas you can reinforce. It can be as simple as pointing out objects that start with "A" on your drive to run errands or even to have your child recall what they learned earlier that day. Stay involved and don't think that technology will teach your child for you!

Expand on the concepts

Once you've approached the concepts that the tech taught your kids, you can expand on it! If they watched a video about lions, talk about the other animals that live in Africa. If they played a game that involved counting to ten, help them count to twenty! The technology can be a take-off point to learn so many new and wonderful things, and can develop your child's passion for learning that you can then help to grow. 

Try to be involved when your kids use technology

If you have the time, sit with your child and be involved when they use technology. This will help you know what they're doing, but it will also show you what they understand and what they struggle with. You can also be there when your child has questions and explain new things to them. Being there allows using technology to be something that you and your kid do together, instead of something that babysits your child. (Although sometimes it becomes the babysitter, one's judging. Promise. :-) )

Find a balance

There is no problem with setting limits, even when the tech you're using is educational. There are so many different learning experiences that kids can have, and it's important to find a balance between the technological experiences and everything else. Do what feels best for you, but make sure that you have a plan. Without a plan, things can get out of control, and you'll find that your kid is using technology way more than you may be comfortable with.

Set an example

This is something that I am always working with. There are not only a ton of tech options out there for our kids, but also for ourselves! It struck me one day that if I want my kid to have a healthy relationship with technology, I need to demonstrate a healthy relationship with it myself. That means finding my own balance, setting my own limits, and making sure that the time that I spend with technology is "quality time." When we set an example for our kids, they'll know what we expect from them. 

As time goes by, our family learns more about how we want technology to be involved in our household. I'm sure things will change over time, but I'm confident that these "rules" will help us address things along the way!

What things have helped you to get technology to work for your kids?

September 30, 2013

Going Barefoot

Growing up, I was always a bit of a bookworm. I remember spending an entire summer reading all of the Nancy Drew books and using every chance I could get to hide away and read more. My parents instilled in me a love for reading at a very early age, and that love has carried on throughout the years.

When I first became a parent, one of the few things I knew was that I wanted my daughter to love reading. Before she was even born, she had a healthy library of board books, which I tried to read to her every night from the get-go. I researched books and read about which were the best. I found books I remembered loving as a kid, and bought as many as I could. As soon as she was old enough, I started taking her on weekly trips to the library. I was a tad bit obsessed.