A Little of This and That in August

Aug 31, 2015

This month has been a whirlwind . . . a combination of endings and beginnings with a couple more transitions awaiting us in September. Nothing about our new schedule feels normal yet because it hasn't settled down enough to turn into a routine. Hoping that happens in the next couple of weeks (or there's a pretty sure chance I'll go crazy).

Right now I'm . . .

Missing . . . Aaron while he's at school. He started second grade a couple of weeks ago, and I was not ready for it.

Anticipating . . . Maxwell's first day of kindergarten (today!!). He's been ready for this day for years. Me? Not so much.

Planning . . . for Bradley's first day of Joy School (also today!!) with three other friends. I've done many preschool co-ops in the past (click here if you'd like to see some of our lesson plans), but this will be my first year following the official Joy School curriculum.

Looking . . . forward to some one-on-one time with Clark.

Reading . . . see last Friday's post.

Soaking . . . up the last few days at the pool.

Remembering . . . what a great time we had at my family reunion earlier this month. My parents and younger siblings came to Utah for it, which meant we got to go home each night and sleep in our own beds. That's my kind of reunion. We hiked and bowled and toured the new FamilySearch exhibit on Temple Square. We had a family book club about The Boys in the Boat. And of course, we talked and ate and argued (mainly about important things like the merits of the spoon vs. the fork).

Watching . . . my kids play soccer. Also, I'm realizing that with four boys, we might be in this for the long haul. (Or not. They're not the most talented ones on the field so we'll see how long they (and I) can endure.)

Discovering . . . new things to listen to with the boys. Our most recent favorites are the Brains On! podcast and the Classics for Kids episodes.

Squeezing . . . in one last visit to the zoo before our membership expires this month. It's been fun, but we need a break.

Mourning . . . the chip in my phone screen, which it got after I dropped it on a rocky path. That'll do it.

Going . . . on dates. For the past four months, Mike and I have been trying really hard to go on weekly dates. We trade off months for planning. August was my turn. We went to a play (The Little Mermaid), a performance of Polynesian dancers, stake conference, and dinner with friends. I'm looking forward to next month when I just get to enjoy the dates without arranging the babysitting (my least favorite part of the planning).

Meeting . . . new friends. Specifically, at the beginning of the month, I met my blogging friend, Suzanne. I love turning virtual friendships into real ones.

Fulfilling . . . my civic duty. Last week, I served on a jury. Although it's not something I would have chosen (finding babysitters for those two days was a major stress), it was a very interesting experience and one I don't think I'll ever forget. It was fascinating to watch this age-old process unfold exactly as it has with millions of other cases.

Reminiscing . . . about our trip to Lava Hot Springs. We went with most of Mike's family, and even though it was a cool, rainy day, it was still so much fun. If I hadn't thrown out my back in the middle of it, it would have been even better. (Because of that, I missed tubing down the river, which everyone said was their favorite part.)

Feeling . . . amazed that Clark lets me put pants on him. I know this sounds very insignificant, but with this kid, almost nothing is easy. So the fact that he patiently cooperates every single time, whether he's happy or sad, is actually pretty significant.

Trying . . . to get organized. I tend to feel overwhelmed really easily. I wish I didn't, but I do. It's something I'm trying to accept about myself. Consequently, I'm trying to be careful about what I commit to and also more intentional about how I spend my time.

What have you been up to lately?

Family Reading Status

Aug 28, 2015

I know you hear a lot about what I'm reading, but today I thought I'd give you a quick look at the currently reading piles of everyone else in our family too.

  • Reading Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. I think I have about sixty pages left. For the most part, I've enjoyed it, but it has not been a fast read for me. Whether that's because of the genre or just my busy schedule right now, I don't know. I'm sure I'll have more thoughts after I finish it.
  • Listening to The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton. I'm a little more than halfway through and enjoying it so much more than The Forgotten Garden. Plus, the reader is quite fabulous.
  • Also reading Believing Christ by Stephen Robinson and the scriptures every day.
  • Pretending that I'm still reading The Sound of Paper by Julia Cameron, although I don't think I've cracked the cover in at least a month.
  • Just finished listening to The Monuments Men by Robert M. Edsel. He really liked it, and he said I should listen to it too. 
  • Listening to The Colony: The Harrowing True Story of the Exiles of Molokai by John Tayman. He started it on a recent trip, and I'm not sure if he's picked it up since he got home. Apparently, he was falling asleep while listening to it (while flying, not driving!), and he said he'd have to backtrack quite a bit to remember where he was.
  • Reading Oliver and the Seawigs by Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre. I admit to doing no screening before Aaron started this book, but he seems to be enjoying it.
  • Also reading some nonfiction by Seymour Simon. I believe this week he read Lightning and also Lungs.
  • Just finished Pirates Past Noon by Mary Pope Osborne this morning. He was pretty thrilled since it was the first chapter book he's read all on his own.
  • Listening to The Boxcar Children, Surprise Island, and The Yellow House Mystery by Gertrude Chandler Warner. There was a day earlier this week when he was sick, so he spent a lot of time in bed listening to these three.
  • Current favorites: 1 Hunter by Pat Hutchins, Sylvie by Jennifer Sattler, Bedtime for Monsters by Ed Vere, No, No, Kitten! by Shelley Moore Thomas, and many more.
  • Reading Not Yet Tip on his own, along with other books from the yellow group of the Reading For All Learners collection.
  • Some recent favorites: City Animals by Simms Taback (mostly because of the page with the dog), What Does Baby Say? by Karen Katz (because he can repeat almost all the sounds), and Walter's Wheels by Noelle Dingeldein (because the race car page makes him laugh and laugh). 
Amy and the boys:
  • The Story of the World: Early Modern Times by Susan Wise Bauer. This has taken us all summer to read, but we're nearing the end. It will feel like a major accomplishment when we finish.
  • Fantastic Mr. Fox by Roald Dahl. This is a short enough book we should have been able to blaze through it in one or two sittings, but with the start of school and trying to finish The Story of the World, we haven't been able to devote more than ten minutes at a time. Too bad though because my kids love it.
Mike and the boys:
  • Prince Caspian by C.S. Lewis. I think they have one chapter left.
Mike and Amy:
  • How to Talk to Your Child About Sex by Richard and Linda Eyre. I wouldn't call this fun reading, but with Aaron starting second grade, I feel like it is necessary. 
And once we're done with all of these, we have so many more great books waiting in the wings: Harry Potter, Mister Pip, and On Being Mortal, to name a few.

What are you currently reading? 

    Why I Don't Mind Folding the Laundry

    Aug 27, 2015

    Motherhood, and also just adulthood in general, comes with a long list of menial, repetitive tasks. The dishes must be washed, the laundry must be folded, the grass must be mowed, the floor must be swept, the oil must be changed, the windows must be scrubbed, the garden must be weeded, the meals must be cooked. Over and over again, forever and ever, from now until the end of your lives.

    No one tells you any of this in their peppy graduation speeches. There's a lot of, "You can be anything you want in this world! You're going to do amazing things! Go get 'em!" and not a whole lot of, "And, oh yeah, those piles of laundry don't wash themselves. Have fun with that." (They also never tell you that, yes, you can eat ice cream on the couch after the kids go to bed--so there are some hidden perks.)

    There are days when I feel like my life is slowly evaporating in monotonous tasks. Sometimes it seems like I have nothing to show for these hours and days that I'm living. It can be kind of a discouraging thought to realize you could live your whole life and come to the end of it, and no one will really care that you've folded 23,541 loads of laundry. It actually doesn't look that impressive in an obituary.

    But then, there are also days when I don't mind those boring tasks one bit. When I don't have to think about what I'm doing, then I can think about whatever else I want. My hands are busy, but my mind is utterly and completely free. There's something quite pleasant in that.

    When I was reading Emily's Quest a few weeks ago, I came across the following passage. And it was satisfying to find out that Emily Byrd Starr agrees with me:
    "This evening, just when I was in the middle of a story Aunt Elizabeth said she wanted me to weed the onion-bed. So I had to lay down my pen and go out to the kitchen garden. But one can weed onions and think wonderful things at the same time, glory be. It is one of the blessings that we don't always have to put our souls into what our hands may be doing, praise the gods--for otherwise who would have any soul left? So I weeded the onion-bed and roamed the Milky Way in imagination."
    It sounds fairly romantic--especially that bit about roaming the Milky Way--but there's a lot of truth in it. There are so many things I enjoy doing when I don't have to be fully engaged with the physical task at hand.

    The first, and probably most obvious one, is to "think wonderful things," as Emily put it. I don't know that my thoughts are always wonderful, but I love to just let my mind wander. I stew over problems (and brainstorm solutions), I formulate new blog posts, I ponder eternal truths (which sounds much more impressive than, at least in my case, it actually is), and I make plans for the future. And for me, I actually think a lot more clearly if I'm busy doing something instead of sitting still and trying to think.

    Monotonous tasks also give me the perfect opportunity to indulge in some inspiring or entertaining listening. For the last few months, I've been listening to a conference talk first thing in the morning before I listen to anything else (I've had this one and this one on repeat lately). It gets the day started right and reminds me to focus on the important things. I tend to listen to audiobooks when the kids are asleep or occupied (I'm listening to The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton right now--so good!) and podcasts when they're likely to need my frequent attention (two recent favorites: Bringing Up Betty and The Yarn).

    I'm not much of a singer, but occasionally, I like to sing while I work. It makes me feel happy and alive. But even more than that, I like to put on some upbeat music. It's energizing--for me and my kids. Sometimes--usually--dancing ensues.

    A task like washing the dishes gives me the perfect opportunity to call someone on the phone. It's almost always my mom, but once in a while I branch out to a friend that I need to catch up with. The truth is, I don't love talking on the phone, but if I'm busy doing something else, it can be fun.

    Not recently, but quite a bit in the past, I used those mindless tasks to memorize scriptures or poems or hymns. Wiping down the bathroom sink took the same amount of time as five repetitions of a certain phrase. I should get back into that.

    I've also found that if I'm doing something fairly stationary (like making dinner or folding laundry), it's a great time to have some quality time with my kids. I can help them with homework or projects. I can let them help me with whatever I'm doing. I can ask them questions and take the time to listen to all their grand ideas.

    So yes, I've definitely found ways to enjoy doing almost every task in our home. My problem now stems from the fact that it's almost impossible to "think wonderful thoughts" if I'm being interrupted four different times by four different people. But I happen to be quite fond of those four little people, so usually I don't mind.

    What do you do to engage your mind while your hands are busy?

    Emily's Quest by L.M. Montgomery

    Aug 24, 2015

    Finally, finally, I can check off the Emily trilogy from my to-read list. I read the first one probably fifteen years ago, then read it again a few years ago, and finally made the reading of the last two one of my goals for the year. And I'm so glad I did. This final installment was probably my favorite one in the trilogy.

    At the beginning of this book, Emily has been left behind. Sure, she has Aunt Elizabeth, Aunt Laura, and Cousin Jimmy, but all of her friends (Perry, Ilse, and, most notably, Teddy) have gone off on the grand adventures of adulthood. (Emily has something of a vague regret for not taking up Miss Royal on her offer to go to New York City.) But New Moon is just as dear as ever, and Emily loves the sweet comforts of home. Before Teddy leaves, he and Emily make a promise of sorts to each other. Whenever either of them sees the star, Vega of the Lyre, they will think of each other--"everywhere and as long as we live."

    But after he goes, Teddy changes. He becomes preoccupied with his art and soon becomes quite well-known and esteemed. Emily, on the other hand, publishes a lot of stories and poems but can't seem to get any higher on her Alpine path. She becomes very discouraged and, after a nearly fatal accident, she loses interest in writing entirely. The years pass slowly, and it seems for a time that all her dreams are lost.

    This book reminded me of the movie, It's a Wonderful Life. As you might remember, George Bailey wants nothing more than to get out of Bedford Falls. He wants to travel the world and go to college and become an architect. But after his father passes away quite suddenly, he chooses to stay in order to help the Bailey Building and Loan not fall into the greedy hands of Mr. Potter. In Emily's case, she stayed at New Moon much more willingly (she's a homebody at heart), but she still watches as all of her friends find success and happiness and she seems to stay stagnant and the same. In both scenarios, the friends come home for visits and find everything exactly as they left it. It's comforting to them, but it's aggravating to George and Emily who, in spite of choosing to stay, have such big dreams for their lives, none of which seem to be coming to fruition.

    This book was quite the contrast to Emily Climbs, which, in spite of many funny and witty moments, was almost intolerably slow for me. The romantic tension in this one kept the pace up for me. Montgomery keeps the reader guessing the entire time: who is Emily going to end up with? Is she even going to get married? Is she really going to marry someone she doesn't love? Is Teddy really going to marry someone he doesn't love? 

    It's a different kind of page turner than something action-packed or danger-filled. In fact, I suppose you could say that for most of the book, nothing much happens. Many years pass, and, as a reader, I felt a lot of frustration with Teddy and Emily and kept wondering, Is anything ever going to happen???? But it was that question that kept me turning the pages. I had to know if things would resolve between them. The promise of reconciliation was very tantalizing.

    It's so funny because, really, I don't actually like Teddy Kent very much. I know he's sweet and dreamy and kind, but he never seemed to have much backbone, and this final installment did nothing to change my opinion. In fact, if he'd been less romantic and more practical, none of the misunderstandings would have happened (but then, I just said that the whole reason I liked this book was because of the romantic tension, so you can see, I'm conflicted).

    However, when there was even a hint of a threat that Emily wasn't going to end up with Teddy, I was quite indignant. How could Montgomery set up their love story so perfectly in the previous two books and then not have anything come of it? She strings the reader along until the last possible second (we're talking, the-wedding-guests-are-arriving, the-minister-is-waiting, last possible second). In fact, it wasn't until the last four pages that I could finally relax, and I'll admit, I would have liked a few more pages of happiness before it all ended. I think all the previous pages of tension deserved a drawn-out happy ending.

    Even though waiting to see what would happen between Emily and Teddy was the main thing that kept me reading, Emily's ambition to become an author was a close second. I loved one of her journal entries where she is reveling in life's beauty, and then her final line is, "How much difference in one's outlook three acceptances make!" (She's referring to having three of her manuscripts accepted for publication.) It's so true. On the days when someone compliments me or follows me on Instagram or comments on my blog, my disposition changes because I feel appreciated and valued. And it makes me realize that it wouldn't take much effort on my part to do that for someone else as well. 

    Out of the three books, this is the only one that, upon finishing, I went back and reread some of my favorite parts. I guess that affirms what I said at the beginning: this is my favorite of the three.

    Secrets of Adulthood #1: Sweep and You'll Feel Better

    Aug 21, 2015

    Even though we still have more than a third of the year to go, I've already been contemplating my reading goals for 2016. I don't have them all figured out yet, but one thing that I do know is that a couple of rereads are in order. One of those rereads will be The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin.

    I've forgotten many details from the book (hence, the reread), but a few of the things have stayed with me, particularly Gretchen's Secrets of Adulthood ("What's fun for other people may not be fun for you--and vice versa" is one of my favorites). Immediately after reading the book, I thought of several of my own, and I've been surprised with how often one of my Secrets of Adulthood will pop into my head at just the right time and calm me down or remind me of something important or make me smile.

    In the book, Gretchen has her resolutions, her Twelve Commandments, and her Secrets of Adulthood, and so at first I was a little conflicted with how to categorize my little pieces of advice to myself. But where the resolutions are specific action plans for achieving goals and the commandments are sort of these overarching, big-picture values, the Secrets of Adulthood were just random tips and tricks. They aren't necessarily things that will make a big difference in your worldview, but they might make everyday life a little easier. So I decided my little thoughts fit best under the Secrets of Adulthood heading, and I've called them that ever since.

    Today I'm going to share one of those with you, and this may become something of a regular feature on Sunlit Pages. We'll see. Additionally, I would love to hear about your own Secrets of Adulthood--those little daily mantras that help you survive and thrive.

    Here's one that I repeat to myself on an almost daily basis:

    [Sweep], and you'll feel better. 

    Of course it needs an explanation.

    With four boys running around, our home is always in varying degrees of chaos. There are moments when I can handle it just fine but other moments where it totally overwhelms me (and both types of moments happen cyclically every day). When I'm in my overwhelmed state, my irritation and frustration with the mess tend to escalate very quickly and unpredictably. Within seconds, every direction I turn sends me further into despair. It feels like I will never have a clean house ever again.

    At this point, I can go one of two directions: either I can wander around while feeling more irritated and overwhelmed at every turn; or I can focus on fixing one thing, just one, while turning into a rational human being again.

    It's in that critical moment of decision that this mantra comes in so handy. I repeat it silently to myself:

    [Sweep], and you'll feel better. [Insert task of choice], and you'll feel better.

    I find that when I set my mind to one chore, it doesn't really matter what it is. Just the act of bringing order to one thing (be it the sink full of dishes or the crumb-cluttered floor or the basket of clean laundry) calms me down enough that I can then tackle the rest of what's bothering me (and also delegate some of the work out to other family members).

    Generally, the simpler this initial task is, the better. In fact, vacuuming might be my all-time favorite thing to do to bring almost immediate calm. Whether it's the white noise or the therapeutic motion or the instant lift it gives to a room, I always feel better after vacuuming (but I like the way "Sweep, and you'll feel better" sounds more than "Vacuum, and you'll better").

    The key is to trust myself that it will actually work.

    Clark agrees with me.

    What do you do to restore yourself to a state of rational calm? What are your most oft-repeated Secrets of Adulthood? 

    Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren

    Aug 19, 2015

    Book Review: Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren--uproariously funny and delightful
    Oh, Pippi. That iconic literary figure. Even if you've never read the book, I'm sure as soon as I said, "Oh, Pippi," an image of a lanky girl with bright red pigtails jutting out from the sides of her head and humongous black shoes on her feet flashed across your brain. Everyone knows Pippi.

    And now my kids know her, too.

    If you've read the book or seen one of the movie adaptations, then you might also remember a few other details, such as these:  Pippi lives in a home called Villa Villekulla (one of those names that rolls gloriously off the tongue--try it). She has no mother or father (her mother died and her father was lost at sea). This lack of parental supervision suits Pippi just fine, and she takes full advantage of it: staying up into the wee morning hours learning how to dance the schottische or drawing on the walls or rolling out dozens of cookies on the kitchen floor. Her neighbors, Tommy and Annika, are rather envious and love coming over to play because there's always something fun or wild or strange going on. She's also unbelievably strong, which makes for some pretty funny moments. (It was one of those facts I kept forgetting about until, all of sudden, she was doing something spectacular, like throwing the local bullies up into a tree.) But even though Pippi doesn't have parents, she doesn't live alone: She has a pet monkey named Mr. Nilsson and a horse who resides on the porch. All in all, it's a good life.

    I knew we'd found a winner as early as the very first chapter. Tommy and Annika are visiting Villa Villekulla for the very first time, and they ask her, "Don't you have any father or mother?" And Pippi happily says, "No, not the least little tiny bit of a one." My kids busted up laughing. Then Annika asks, "But who tells you when to go to bed at night and things like that?" Pippi answers, "I tell myself. First I tell myself in a nice friendly way; and then, if I don't mind, I tell myself again more sharply; and if I still don't mind, then I'm in for a spanking--see?" At that point, I had to stop reading because Aaron, Max, and Bradley were laughing so hard they couldn't hear what I was reading. (And I had to go back and read that part over again because they'd enjoyed it so much, they wanted to hear it a second time.)

    They enjoyed the rest of the book just as much, although Aaron admitted on the second chapter that he didn't think it was quite as funny as the first. The first chapter definitely had the element of surprise going for it. Since my kids had never heard of Pippi before, they were just as startled and delighted by her as Tommy and Annika.

    Now a word of warning. Pippi is impudent. She is sassy. She can be a little bit rude. (When she goes to school (for all of one day), the teacher asks her what seven and five are, and Pippi replies, "Well, if you don't know that yourself, you needn't think I'm going to tell you." I know. I cringed too.) But the thing is, her impudence and sassiness and rudeness are very innocent. She's not saying those things because she's trying to get the upper hand on adults or because she's trying to assert her independence. She says them because she has absolutely no filter and never considers the appropriateness of what she's saying before she's already said it.

    But she recognizes that she often doesn't know the proper way to behave, and it causes her the occasional moment of anxiety. When Tommy and Annika invite her to their house for a coffee party, Pippi worries, "Oh, what will happen? Oh, I'm so nervous. What if I can't behave myself?" Annika says, "Of course you can." And Pippi goes on to say, "Don't you be too certain about that. You can be sure I'll try, but I have noticed several times that people don't think I know how to behave even when I'm trying as hard as ever I can." (Spoiler: her conversation at the coffee party is a total disaster.) So you can't help but love her for trying.

    Pippi's also very literal. She reminded me of a younger Amelia Bedelia--a more scatter-brained, sporadic Amelia Bedelia. In fact, it's a little hard to keep up with her. She changes her mind (and her stories) so quickly. She can go from stating something as fact to admitting it's fiction faster than you can blink.

    I think the thing that I loved the most about Pippi though was her optimistic flexibility with life. Her plans are always spur of the moment and she never thinks about the consequences. I don't necessarily agree with that way of living (and for me, personally, I'd never be able to handle it), but I love that she always makes the best of her decisions. When she paints a large picture on the wallpaper in the parlor, she doesn't fret about ruining the wall; and she doesn't regret the picture. Instead, she thinks it's a beautiful painting and greatly improves the room. But you know that in a few days, she'll probably be tired of it. However, she won't wish for it to be back the way it was. She'll just move onto her next great idea and make more "improvements." And it's that kind of attitude, moving forward with optimism and flexibility, that I admire.

    It felt a lot like Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle in that each chapter was its own story. There's wasn't any overarching drama, and there was nothing about the last chapter that actually made it feel like the end. It just ended. That must have been a popular literary device in the 1950's, but I can't say that it's my favorite.

    If you're looking for your next great readaloud, I'd recommend this one, especially if you've enjoyed some of the other similar books I mentioned in this review. And if you've already read Pippi, I'd love to know what you thought about her. Did you find her obnoxious or endearing?

    KidPages: Again! by Emily Gravett

    Aug 17, 2015

    It's been awhile since I've done any KidPages posts. I've been having a hard time just keeping up with my regular book reviews, which is why I've been slacking. I do share our favorites on Instagram though, so if you've been looking for more picture book recommendations, you can follow me there.

    The parent/child bedtime struggle . . . we've all been there. The later it gets, the more quick-witted the kids seem to be (and, by default, the slower, tireder, and, in my case, crankier the parents are). Kids can think of a million reasons to stay up for just a few more minutes.

    And Little Dragon is no different. (For the sake of this review, we will call him Cedric. There's nothing that explicitly says that's his name, but if you read the book, you'll see why it's a good choice.) The bedtime ritual starts out peacefully enough: he plays, eats some cookies and milk, brushes his teeth, takes a bath (this all occurs on the endpapers), and finally, settles down with his favorite book. His mother cheerfully reads it, and at the end of it, Cedric asks for it again.

    A child asking to hear a favorite story again? It's a difficult thing to refuse. (I know. My kids tempt me every single night). Cedric's mom gives in. She reads it again. But you see where this book is going. And each repetition gets shorter and less comprehensive as fatigue and exhaustion set in. As often happens, the story is putting Cedric's mom to sleep, but not Cedric himself, who gets more and more animated (and obnoxious) the longer he's up.

    Finally, Cedric's mom cannot resist sleep any longer (I plead guilty of falling asleep while reading to my kids, too). But Cedric won't give up. He jumps up and down on her chest screaming, "Again! Again! Again!" In an irrational moment, he blows a fiery hole through the very thing he wanted so much.

    And that's the end of the story.

    It's abrupt, but if your kids have reached the point of psychotic and irrational behavior, then bedtime often is. We parents can only be patient so long. Eventually, a line is crossed, and then it's over. Just like that.

    Parents will like the abrupt ending because it's so true to life. And kids will like it because it's unexpected and funny. And that's the way the whole book is: a little bit for the adults, a little bit for the kids. The balance is just about perfect.

    Also, the text is pretty genius. It's a combination of the words in Cedric's bedtime story and the ever-insistent (and more and more obnoxious) "Again!" With each repetition, Cedric's mom slightly alters the words of the bedtime story out of necessity (she's exhausted) and because she has an agenda (get Cedric to bed). The distinction between reality and fantasy slowly meld into one another until the bedtime story becomes Cedric's story. It's very clever.

    I've loved Emily Gravett's illustrations for a long time (I think Blue Chameleon was the first book I read of hers). Because of the combination of pencil and watercolor, the pictures are detailed, but with soft, dreamy edged lines.

    And one more final plug: It's short, so if you're looking for a quick bedtime read, this is it. (But you'll have to read it again and again and again . . .)

    Seven Reasons Why We've Had a Perfect Summer

    Aug 14, 2015

    I thought we'd never beat last summer (it was pretty much the summer of my dreams), but this year tried very hard. It was different--Clark made sure of that--but we still managed to capture the idyllic feel of summer. With it coming to a formal close next week (school begins on Wednesday), I thought I'd reflect a little on what made it so great so that maybe, hopefully, I can recreate it next year.

    I've come to realize that I'm happiest when we have a strong foundation of structure and routine interspersed here and there (not every day) with a fun new activity. I'm a homebody at heart, but I like the occasional adventure. (Most of my kids are this way too.)

    And so, taking that into account, here are seven of the things we did this summer that made me love it so much I wish we had another six weeks of it (at least).

    1. Making summer goals

    Have I mentioned these goals enough yet? I'm sure it's my Upholder personality showing through that here, in the middle of August, we can still be working just as diligently on our summer goals as we did during the first week of June. Not only have these goals helped me feel like we actually accomplished something this summer, but they defined every morning and gave it a purpose. The goals became part of our routine but in a very measurable way. It's one thing to have a daily list of chores (we have those too), but it's another to feel like everything you do has a purpose and is contributing to a larger goal. I will admit that accomplishing these goals required an insane amount of dedication on my part (my kids liked them, but they would never have stuck with them if they'd been left entirely on their own), so seeing those stars gives me just about as much pleasure as it does them.

    2. Reading The Story of the World

    Are you familiar with this history of the world by Susan Wise Bauer? I've been eyeing it for many months but wasn't sure if my kids were old enough for it to hold their interest. Finally though, I just decided to try it out (and we further committed ourselves by making it one of our summer goals). We started with Volume Three because that's the one that was available at the library at the beginning of summer. Now, looking back, I'm kind of glad we had to start with the third one because it includes the time period of the American Revolution, something my kids were already somewhat familiar with. We've read a little bit every day. It has forty-two chapters (divided into two or three sections), so it's been one of the goals that I've really had to stay on top of. We'd been reading about four or five pages a day, but just last week, we decided we better increase it to ten if we wanted to be done with it by the end of August. The best part of it has been that at the end of every sub-chapter, either Aaron or Max draws a picture of what we read about. We've made a long timeline in their room with all the pictures.

    3. Going to the pool

    When I was growing up, I went to the pool a few times each summer, but definitely not every day. However, I knew that the pool was a landmark for many kids--the common thread that tied all the days together. There was a part of me that longed for that daily familiarity. So you might say that now I'm living my childhood dream. There is a little swimming club in our neighborhood. All last summer, we saw kids with towels hanging around their necks making their way there every afternoon and then straggling back home. This year we decided it was time to buy a share ourselves. It wasn't the most economical (it's just a little pool, and it's only open for three months out of the year), but both Mike and I agree that it has been more than worth it and one of the highlights of this summer. It's given my kids some motivation to be productive in the morning because the promise of the pool is always there. We've gone almost every day, and it's been a great way to cool off and relax. Plus, it's turned my kids into confident little swimmers, a benefit I hadn't even really thought about.

    4. Instituting poetry snack time

    On a past episode of The Read-Aloud Revival Podcast, Sarah Mackenzie interviewed Julie Bogart. One of the things they talked about that piqued my interest was poetry teatime. The basic idea is this: you gather up a few books of poetry, set out some food (it can be as fancy or as basic as you wish), and read poems while enjoying a little snack. I knew my boys wouldn't go for something called poetry teatime, so I renamed it poetry snack time, and it has been received with the greatest enthusiasm you can imagine. There are too many details to go into right here, so I'll save them all for a future post.

    5. Watching very little TV

    Almost by accident, my kids have watched very little TV this summer, and it's been fantastic. During the school year, I rely on the TV when I'm teaching piano or working on blog posts. But I took a break from piano and I shifted most of my writing to the early morning, so there just hasn't been much need to turn it on. For the most part, my kids don't even ask for it. On the rare occasion when we've turned it on, I almost always regret it because it turns them into grumpy little monsters.

    6. Reading aloud

    Of course this one was going to make the list. Reading together has made up a big chunk of every single day. I love reading to my kids right after breakfast, before we tackle any of our work for the day. It's been so nice to have the flexibility to be able to read one more chapter . . . and then, one more chapter just because we feel like it. And we've made it through some pretty great books during the last two and a half months.

    7. Participating in fun, memorable activities

    I like routine; I like structure; but I also like changing things up and trying new things (as long as they're not scheduled too closely together). I feel like we struck a good balance this year. The majority of our days were blissfully boring, but occasionally, we broke them up with something new. It made our summer feel fun and exciting without feeling stressful (although there were a couple of weeks right at the height of summer that got a little overbooked--but I suppose that's natural, right?).

    Here are a few of the out-of-the-ordinary things we did:
    • Attended family reunions (fourth one this weekend)
    • Played at the watering hole with cousins
    • Watched a movie at the library
    • Took a road trip to Nebraska to visit my grandma
    • Kayaked in a little pond
    • Went to Lagoon (a local amusement park)
    • Hosted several guests (family and friends) from out of town
    • Tried ice skating 
    • Caught crawdads
    • Swam at Lava Hot Springs
    • Hiked around Silver Lake
    • Went camping (Mike and the three older boys, not Clark and me)
    • Participated in a session of swimming lessons
    • Relaxed at the cabin

    Mike and I argue all the time about which is better: summer or winter (we both agree that spring and fall are, of course, the best). He says winter because he hates being hot. But I say summer because even at its most unbearable, the mornings and evenings are still indescribably pleasant. This summer has been so good to us. I'm sad that it's over, but I don't think I would have changed a thing about it. And that feels good. Summer for the win.

    Tell me about your summer. What fun (or ordinary!) things have you done?

    Necessary Lies by Diane Chamberlain

    Aug 12, 2015

    Can we all admit, right here, right now, that not all books are worthy to be discussed at book club? I'm sure you could probably have some semblance of a discussion about any book (even if it's just about how little there is to discuss), but for an energizing, opinion-flashing, talking-on-top-of-each other discussion, you need a certain type of book.

    This is that type of book. When we discussed it at my book club last month, we didn't even have a discussion leader (an accidental oversight), but this book just carried itself.

    The story is set in North Carolina in 1961 and is told from two perspectives: Jane's, a newly married and recently graduated social worker and Ivy's, a fifteen-year-old white girl who lives and works on a tobacco farm. Their paths cross when Jane gets assigned as Ivy's family's caseworker. Ivy's family is made up of her diabetic grandma, her seventeen-year-old sister Mary Ella, and her two-year-old nephew William.

    Jane finds out early in her orientation that Mary Ella was sterilized by the state immediately after giving birth to her illegitimate son. Such a procedure was approved because Mary Ella has a low IQ and lives in impoverished circumstances. Mary Ella was told that she just got her appendix taken out.

    This strikes Jane as very wrong, and she is quite disturbed that the state has power to decide a woman's future. So when she's informed that she needs to begin working on a petition to have the same procedure done to Ivy, naturally she's a little resistant. Ivy's case is more complicated: for one thing, her IQ is higher than Mary Ella's (but she does have petit mal seizures, which is one of the other things that can qualify you). Her situation is just as bleak as Mary Ella's, but it quickly becomes obvious to Jane that it's Ivy who is holding the family together. Jane doesn't feel like it's right to sterilize someone just because of the circumstances they were born into (and of course, Jane's compassion and honesty gets her into a lot of trouble right from the start).

    Meanwhile, Ivy is concerned with a lot of things: she's worried about Baby William's safety (her grandma watches him while she and Mary Ella work in the tobacco, but he's often dangerously neglected), she can't get her grandma to follow the nurse's directions and take care of her diabetes, and she has a boyfriend (but it's the tobacco farm owner's son, so the relationship has to be kept completely secret). And then . . . something else happens and Ivy's (and, by consequence, Jane's) life becomes even more complicated.

    Prior to reading this book, I didn't know anything about the eugenics program. It struck me rather uncomfortably (and strikes Jane the same way) how similar it sounded to the Nazi's sterilization program during World War II. It's also rather ironic (and someone made this observation at book club) that Jane's doctor won't prescribe her birth control without her husband's permission, and Ivy won't have a say in her sterilization. Even though Jane and Ivy live vastly different lives, both of them don't have as much control over their lives as they want.

    But the situation that bothered me even more than Jane's or Ivy's was the one involving Baby William. He is a typical two-year-old (although, like Mary Ella, he seems to be of low intelligence). If you've spent any time around a child that age, you know that he or she needs constant supervision because they can find trouble or danger in a blink of an eye. Baby William isn't getting that constant attention (many times, he's not getting any attention), and consequently, he gets into some life-threatening scrapes.

    But never has a boy been so loved by his mother; Mary Ella loves him fiercely, tenderly. Baby William is her whole world. Everything she does is for him. The nature of growing up on a farm a with family who has to work for their survival means that he is sometimes neglected, not out of irresponsibility but out of necessity (and if you look back at the history of the world, including many areas still today, children have often been left to their own devices while their parents are working).

    Jane's supervisor is convinced that Baby William needs to be removed from the home (and Jane thinks so too). She feels like he doesn't stand a chance in that kind of environment--not mentally or emotionally or physically (his very life sometimes seems to be in jeopardy).

    But in considering Baby William's fate, I felt like they were pitting two lives against each other and giving more value to Baby William's than Mary Ella's. Jane kept justifying her actions because it was in Baby William's best interest (which could also be debated . . . ). But what gives one human the right to decide another human's future . . . to basically say, We value his life more than hers?

    Of course, since Ivy's family is on welfare, they agreed to have this sort of invasive control over their lives in exchange for help, but it all just rubbed me the wrong way. Even little things, like this passage: "Charlotte [that's Jane's supervisor] was ticking off on her fingers what needed to be done for the family. 'We have to find larger-sized clothing. And call Ann Laing. That rash on Baby William . . . I bet it's the laundry soap they're using to wash his clothes. Ann needs to check it and also bring Ivy contraceptives, just in case.'" It was discomforting for me to hear these intimate needs of the family reduced to an impassive checklist.  It felt like Ivy's family should be more involved in their own welfare.

    I think things have thankfully changed quite a bit since 1961. For one thing, we don't have the eugenics program. But for another, there's more education that goes on. I would hope that if this same story happened today that they would work with Mary Ella to keep Baby William with his family instead of automatically assuming that the situation would be improved by removing him.

    The ending seemed a little overly dramatic; I won't go into details but will say that Jane breaks almost every rule possible and somehow does things she's had no training for. But then, what's a climax for if not a couple of policemen banging on a door and ripping apart a family?

    I absolutely loved Diane Chamberlain's writing. My friend described it as "effortless," and I think that one word sums up exactly what made this so enjoyable to read. It's not the type of writing where you stop and revel in the beauty of the words. But neither do you feel like the words are holding back the story and forcing it into some preconceived box. In fact, you don't even notice the words. I might as well have been listening or watching for how easily and vividly the story unfolded. Somehow Diane Chamberlain struck that magical balance right down the middle, and many times I forgot I was reading.

    I've decided this might be my favorite kind of novel: historical fiction with riveting characters and moral dilemmas and heart-wrenching scenes. A novel with some substance and something to think about, but a story that will make me feel the entire time. This book was not only captivating to read but made for a great discussion afterwards. A perfect book club book, if ever there was one.

    Content note: Some brief mentions of sex and mild language and disturbing situations.

    Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling

    Aug 10, 2015

    In a brave moment, I reserved a copy of this book at the library. I've been wanting to expose my kids to some classical literature, but I admit, I was a little nervous to dive into this one. I worried that they'd get lost in the unfamiliar vocabulary, that they wouldn't be able to follow the storyline, that they'd beg me not to read it.

    But, as is so often the case, they completely surprised me. (And if I'm being completely honest here, they enjoyed it far more than I did.) It's true that there were moments where they lost their focus but never for long enough to lessen their overall enjoyment of the story.

    As I contemplated my many choices in classic children's literature, I purposely selected Just So Stories because I felt like the short story format would lend itself well to my young little audience. The stories are set at the beginning of the world. Each one is self-contained and explains how the world and the animals in it came to be "just so." There's a story about how the camel got his hump and another story about how the elephant's nose came to be a long trunk. There's a story about the creation of the alphabet and another one about the armadillo and his armored plates.

    There's something rather addicting about a collection of stories. Obviously, it's not the plot itself that makes you keep coming back for more since each story's beginning, middle, and end can be read in one sitting. No, it's the pull of a new story, the unknown, the unveiling of some interesting details. Every time we'd finish one chapter, my kids were impatient to know what the next one was called and what it was going to be about. It was a book that was easy to put down when we came to the end of the story but exciting to pick up again when it was time.

    Now, as I alluded at the beginning of this review, my impression of and feelings toward the book were very different from my kids. I must confess that I enjoyed it the most when we got to the end of it. I was so worried about my kids not liking it, but then it was actually me who had such a hard time making it through each chapter.

    I blame two things for this response:

    First, it was one of those books that is really difficult to read aloud. I was constantly tripping over names like Tegumai and Suleiman-bin-Daoud and Pusat Tasek. When I'm not sure if I'm pronouncing something correctly or not, I feel a little ruffled the entire time (and it didn't help that we're also reading Story of the World aloud right now, which also has a lot of difficult names, so it felt like I wasn't doing any reading aloud where I didn't have to be on my toes the entire time).

    And second, it didn't keep me engaged. In between readings, I wouldn't give it a single thought with the consequence that when I came back to it, I couldn't remember a single thing about what we'd last read. This usually wasn't too problematic since I didn't really need to remember details in order to move onto the next story. But when we were reading "The Cat That Walked By Himself," we had to stop in the middle of it, and we didn't come back until the next day. I honestly couldn't remember anything about it. So I started skimming while mentioning little details to my kids: "The Man and his wife tamed the dog and the horse and the cow . . . and the cat made a bargain with the woman . . . three words of praise, and what would happen?" I was rather shocked when Aaron and Max spouted off the terms of the bargain exactly, and I was still trying to remember the most basic details from the story (ironically, "The Cat That Walked By Himself" actually ended up being my favorite story of the bunch).

    However, at the same time that I was muddling my way through the difficult names and forgetting important details, there were also phrases that I just loved. Kipling always addresses the reader as "O Best Beloved," which felt super sweet to me . . . like we were his family (he originally wrote the stories for his children).

    I also loved the way he used repetition to tell the story. There was almost always a few little repeating phrases throughout each story. For example, in "The Crab That Played With the Sea," Kipling took the reader to the four corners of the earth and told a little bit about how various landmarks came to be. Each time, before he moved on to the next area, he said, "And you can look them out on the map." By the last time, Aaron and Max jumped in and said, "I know what he's going to say next! 'And you can look them out on the map!'" This use of repetition gave even longer or more difficult passages a comfortable feeling of familiarity. 

    And it was funny. Rudyard Kipling has a sense of humor, no question. In the story, "How the First Letter was Written," there is a misunderstanding between the cave people and a Stranger. They take him captive and walk back home in order of importance and status: "Behind them [the Woons, Neguses, and Akhoonds--more fun names] was the Tribe in hierarchical order, from owners of four caves (one for each season), a private reindeer run, and two salmon leaps, to feudal and prognathous Villeins, semi-entitles to half a bearskin of winter night, seven yards from the fire, and adscript serfs, holding the reversion of a scraped marrowbone under heriot (aren't those beautiful words, Best Beloved?)." So that was funny to me, but I'm sure it went right over my kids' heads--one of those tuning out moments.

    But there was other humor that we all could enjoy together. In "The Cat That Walked By Himself," Kipling perfectly captured the arrogant and indifferent attitude of the cat. We all laughed as the cat outsmarted the Woman and weaseled his way into their home while still maintaining his independence and freedom.

    So there were some good moments for me. And I don't think any of us will look back on the story with dislike. But I will say that later that evening, we started Pippi Longstocking, and I heaved a quiet sigh of contentment. Reading aloud had finally been restored to an activity of leisure and relaxation.

    8 Rules to Follow to Make Library Visits Work With Kids

    Aug 6, 2015

    8 Ways to Make the Library a Pleasant Experience With Kids

    Earlier this week I took all four boys to the library to pick out their final summer reading prizes (Bradley got a hardback copy of the picture book, Journey--not too shabby). Although I avoid going to the grocery store with all of them at all costs, weekly library trips are always in the schedule.

    When Aaron was a baby, we were a ten-minute walk away from the library, and we went often to help break up the day. As the other boys came along, they joined in on the trips. I don't know why I made library trips with children a priority and not trips to the grocery store. Maybe I think books are more important than food . . .

    For the most part, we've figured out ways to make our library visits pleasant experiences. My kids love the library. But there have been times, one of them being just three weeks ago in fact, when I have sworn off going to the library with kids ever again. Generally, however, these horrible disasters happen because, in a moment of oversight or laziness, I broke one of my own long-held rules.

    Today I'm going to share those rules with you.

    Rule #1: Bring a stroller

    This is my #1 tip. If you have very young children, you must have a way to contain them if the going gets rough. And with four kids in tow, chances are highly likely that it will. You'll know when your kids are old enough not to need to be strapped in anymore. (But here's a general guideline: if they're at an age where you have to follow them around to make sure they don't pull every book off the shelf or just decide randomly to walk out the front doors, they still need a stroller. Clark, at 14 months, definitely needs one.) A few weeks ago, we arrived at the library, only to realize I hadn't put the stroller in the trunk. No matter, I thought, we can manage without it. Ha! Classic mom blunder right there. It was one of the worst library experiences of my life. By the end, it looked like I was stealing my own children as I dragged them screaming from the library. So learn from my mistake: bring a stroller.

    8 Ways to Make the Library a Pleasant Experience With Kids

    Rule #2: Use the library hold system

    This follows as a close second to bringing a stroller. If seventy percent of the problems at the library occur because I'm chasing down a toddler at the same time I'm trying to check out twenty-five books, the other thirty-percent occur because I lose track of my children while I'm trying to find books to take home. Make it easy on yourself: do all of the finding from the comfort of your own home. Go to your library's website, type in the titles you want, and wowza, the next time you're at the library they'll be on the shelf with your name on them. It's like magic. (Need help finding good books? Check out eight of my favorite places to go for children's book recommendations.) If all of your kids wind up quiet and occupied, and you have a moment to peruse the shelves, then consider that a happy bonus. But if not . . . you'll be thanking yourself that you can still go home with a big stack of new books.

    8 Ways to Make the Library a Pleasant Experience With Kids

    Rule #3: Bring a Large, Sturdy Library Bag

    I know. You think you can carry a small stack of books. Or that the free bag from the hospital will be big enough. I know this because I've convinced myself of it a few times, with deep regrets. Invariably, the stack grows as I'm in the library and pretty soon, books are sliding out of my hands or the seam is ripping open in my free-for-a-reason bag. A couple of years ago, I gave up (or finally wised up) and dug out my old college backpack. That thing has the capacity of a truck, and after years of heavy use carrying around too many textbooks, it can handle thirty picture books like they're cake. Week after week, we load it up, and I'm always so grateful for it.

    Rule #4: Park Near the Entrance

    This may seem intuitive (of course you're going to try to get as close to the entrance as possible), but I'm often tempted to park farther away just because it's easier to get a spot. However, this can make or break our library experience from the starting gate. If it's a major ordeal just to get into the library without getting run over, we're less likely to go. It's such a big deal to me that I've been known to wait just so I can get a closer parking space. At our current library, we have our favorite spot: the left-hand side of the parking lot, second car from the front. I love that spot because my kids can hop out, run over to the curb, and follow it around to the front of the building. I don't have to worry about them going behind cars that are backing up or getting lost. (And you'd be surprised how often we get that exact spot.)

    Rule #5: Go to Storytime

    This one isn't really a "rule." You can definitely have very successful library visits without ever stepping foot into storytime, but aside from a few months when Aaron was a toddler and the librarian running storytime read the same books and sang the same songs week after week after week, we've had great success with storytime. Not only have we learned about great new books this way (and, to be honest, we've actually found some of our favorite music albums, too), but it's an easy way to develop a good relationship with your librarian, learn to sit still and listen, and do something fun. During the school year, we go to storytime nearly every week.

    Rule #6: . . . But Don't Go to Storytime If You Need to Look For Books

    Storytime is fun, but after it's over? Well, the library can get a little crazy. So when we go for storytime, we generally don't try to do much else: no reading on the couch, no puzzles, no book browsing. There are just too many kids running around. If you followed the second rule and have a shelf of books waiting for you, then take a minute to check those out and then be on your way. Save the other fun library activities for another time when it is calm and quiet.

    Rule #7: Set Clear Expectations

    I've realized that I can avoid so many meltdowns if I just give my kids a heads up for what they can (or cannot) expect: Yes, you can help me return the books, but you must take turns. You may check out one DVD. I can read a maximum of four books today. No, we will not play on the computers. We will leave in ten minutes. A few years ago, one of the libraries we went to had a button to push if you wanted the door to open by itself. My kids loved to be the one to push that button. Consequently, they fought over it. Every single time. I don't know if there's anything so embarrassing as the library door automatically opening to the sounds of screaming, crying children. So we made the button off-limits. And I reminded them of that rule every time we went before we got out of the car. Once they knew what I expected, they were able to walk right past the tempting button without giving it a second glance.

    8 Ways to Make the Library a Pleasant Experience With Kids

    Rule #8: Leave Enough Time For Reading/Playing

    When I take all my kids to the library, it is an event. There are no quick trips in and out. Those are for the times when I'm by myself. We always plan to stay awhile. And they have their little routines. First they like to spend a few minutes choosing a new DVD to check out. Then they separate: Aaron goes to the craft section, and I don't see him again until it's time to check out. Maxwell goes to the early chapter book section to find a few new books to read. Bradley goes to the children's section and puts together a few puzzles. Sometimes I get a few minutes to check out the new arrivals section. Then Bradley wants me to read a few books to him. Max sometimes listens too. Clark wanders around. Then I check out our new items, and we go. I try to give them enough time to do everything they want to do. (But, I realize, sometimes that's impossible. Last night, it was impossible for us, and Aaron was definitely not okay with that.)
     8 Ways to Make the Library a Pleasant Experience With Kids

    While I love going to the library with my kids, and these rules usually make the time we spend there smooth and pleasant, there's nothing quite like going to the library all by yourself. So try that sometimes, too.

    How do you navigate the library with children in tow? Tell me your tips and tricks in the comments!

    Raising Readers: Create a Book Timeline to Preserve the Memories

    Aug 3, 2015

    When I was little, I kept a spiral bound notebook to record what books I'd read and when I'd read them (the Goodreads of yesterday). To this day, I still love to look through those pages, see my haphazard 8-year-old printing, and remember those early days of reading.

    I've been reading chapter books to my kids for three and a half years now. That's a lot of books. And although I've kept diligent track of those books on Goodreads, I wanted something my kids could see--a large-scale spiral bound notebook, if you will.

    So I created a book timeline.

    Create a book timeline so you and your kids can enjoy remembering all the great books you've read!

    I first got the idea for a book timeline from Everyday Reading. Quite awhile ago, Janssen put up a bookworm on their playroom wall. On each circle, she wrote the title of a book she and her oldest daughter had read together. I loved this idea of visually capturing all those books.

    In our home, we have a small room in the basement that we've turned into a library. I decided to use one of the walls to visually track all of the chapter books the boys and I have read together.

    Because space was limited, I scaled down Janssen's model. Each circle is 2-inches in diameter and tells the title of the book, the author who wrote it, and the month and year we read it in. Then I mounted each circle onto one that is 2 1/2 inches. I also decided to make it into a timeline, rather than a bookworm.

    This sounds like such a simple project, right? And it is. Don't be afraid to make one for yourself. But it took me forever to finish (and I still don't know that I'm 100-percent happy with it, but that could just be because of the space I'm working with and not because of the timeline itself).

    For one thing, I decided to laminate all the circles. This was maybe a little overkill, but I didn't know if this was something I'd want to keep for years and years and years, so I decided to make it as durable as possible.

    Then there was the problem of how to display them. My original idea was to have them go around the entire perimeter of the room, but the ceilings are so low (since it's a basement), and so I would have run into a tall bookcase and a window, and it just wouldn't have worked. Then I thought maybe I could make them into a garland of sorts and string it back and forth across the ceiling. That might have been cool, but it would not have been very timeline-y, which was what I wanted.

    Create a book timeline so you and your kids can enjoy remembering all the great books you've read!

    Finally, I settled on the one available wall in the room. I put up the circles in rows and stood back to admire my work . . . and there was still something missing. That's when I decided to add a header at the top (I agonized over this for several weeks but finally, for lack of thinking up anything better, went with the rather cliché, "Lost in a Good Book") as well as years placed between the circles. Both of these additions made it look less like a jumble of circles and more like an actual timeline.

    Create a book timeline so you and your kids can enjoy remembering all the great books you've read!

    I can tell you, we've already enjoyed this display immensely. Aaron and Maxwell love reminiscing over old favorites, but it's also made us realize that some books fade much more quickly than others. There are some titles they can't remember at all, but hopefully, this wall will help remedy that.

    Create a book timeline so you and your kids can enjoy remembering all the great books you've read!

    It's also just kind of fun to see the sheer number of books we've read over the last three years: fifty-three at last count. That's a lot of happy hours spent reading.

    I was also really happy to recently add Redwall with the little asterisked note, "Read by Dad." I hope there are many more asterisks in the future. (Related post: Give Dad a Turn)

    Create a book timeline so you and your kids can enjoy remembering all the great books you've read!

    Stay tuned: In next month's Raising Readers post, I'll reveal the entire library (all 40 square feet of it). (But I'm wishing I could move it out of the basement for just an hour to photograph it.)

    I'd love to hear about how YOU preserve your book memories: do you keep a reading journal, use Goodreads, or have an Excel document? Or do you have something more visual like this that you and your kids can enjoy and remember with together?
    Proudly designed by Mlekoshi playground