Tuesday, February 28, 2017


Shane, earlier this morning: "Mommy, I don't like it when you sleep right next to me."


Poor Neglected Blog...

I have been neglecting this blog while working on the new one, I am afraid. Today is it's first official post day, so go see what I have been doing! Then come back here, where I will have more reviews and Toddler STEM programming coming shortly.

And, Happy Peanut Butter Lover's Day Eve!

Friday, February 24, 2017

Review: Samson, the Piranha Who Went to Dinner, by Tadgh Bentley

I believe I can quite confidently say that this is the cutest little piranha I have ever seen.


Look at the bow tie!

Samson wasn’t like other piranhas.
While other piranhas stayed close to home
He wanted to explore the world.
And while they stuck to the same old routine, swimming and chomping and scaring,
Samson liked to try new things
Most of all, Samson dreamed of eating fine foods at fancy restaurants.

So when not one but THREE new restaurants come to his corner of the sea, Samson can’t wait to try them all. There’s only one problem: With their big teeth and scary smiles, piranhas aren’t really welcome anywhere, let alone in fancy restaurants. Can Samson make his dream come true—and still be himself?  

The description immediately brought to mind the book Peanut Butter and Brains, a favorite that I just realized I never reviewed! Hmm. Back to Samson, though: if you can get past the sharp teeth, you can see he's actually smiling - he just has a slight underbite! If that's not enough, in the opening pages his bow tie is joined by an old brown satchel and familiar-looking brown hat, while we spot a treasure chest amidst ruins in the background.

Bentley's illustrations are fun to look through all on their own, as poor Samson tries to get some good food to sink his teeth into. With some new friends, he finally discovers the old expression: if you can't join 'em, beat 'em! (Isn't that how it goes?)

Speaking of unique expressions, the frightened restaurant staff uses some great ones, such as "Salty mother of mackerel!" See if your kids can come up with their own colorful-yet-safe expressions to use when they are excited.

Thursday, February 23, 2017


We got our tax refund, and I was so excited. I bought almost everyone in the family new socks! Even me!! Seriously, I have been thinking about this, anticipating it, for over a week now. This morning, as soon as I saw the money was in fact deposited, I threw out all the old, dingy ones. My soul felt at peace. I could hardly wait for my lunch hour, so I could get to Walmart. And then the decisions...with so many similar sizes, we all have to have different styles, or laundry is just a nightmare. I got it all worked out, and practically skipped to the check-out*. Where the cashier told me she was doing essentially the same thing with her refund.

I think...yes, I think we are officially both grown-ups.

*I also bought cat food! And more coffee, even though the container we have is more than half full! I am a spending MACHINE today!

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Review: Duck, Duck, Dinosaur and the Noise at Night, by Kallie George and Oriol Vidal


Feather, Flap, and Spike are spending their first night in their very own nest. They tell stories and snuggle up to get a good night’s sleep, until . . . GRRORE! What’s that scary-sounding noise?

Young readers will probably figure out the source of the scary noise pretty quickly, but that just makes the characters' reactions that much sillier. And the biggest scaredy cat is Spike!

We met this trio when they first hatched, about a year ago. 'One' is about the age most of my kids moved to their own room, so it makes perfect sense that these guys have, too! The illustrations stood out to me as much as the story this time, specifically the landscape (although Spike's gigantic feet are adorable). Vidal makes use of several geometric shapes, but softens the edges so they don't seem at all harsh. Point those shapes out to your readers, and see how many they can identify and perhaps replicate! Ask them also how many times they can spot the firefly throughout the pages.

If you have George and Vidal's first title, you will certainly want to pick this one up as well.

Friday, February 17, 2017

New Blog!

Because I do such a great job at keeping this blog updated (ha), I am adding a second blog.

is scheduled to go live February 28. I hope to have the first month's posts in place by then, which is the main reason for the wait. The goal of this new blog is to give home schoolers, teachers, or parents who just want to have a little extra fun at home, ideas for making each day both fun and educational. 

Did you know that there are a multitude of strange and unusual holidays for pretty much every day of the year? Onion Ring Day...It's My Party Day...Bubble Bath Day... The goal of Homeschooling by the Holidays will be to share cross-curricular lesson and activity ideas for each of those (how do you figure the diameter of said onion ring?) We all know we learn best when we are interested and engaged, right? And, did I mention onion rings? (There may or may not be a large number of food-related holidays.)

During this first year, I will just focus on one holiday (or birthday or historical event) for each day, and most activities will be geared towards younger children. I will also only be using holidays that are on a fixed date - in other words, nothing that falls on "the first Tuesday after the third Friday in the full moon after Valentine's Day".

In the second year, I plan to add ideas for older children, as well as monthly and weekly celebrations, and those with more fluid dates. Throughout, however, I will be happy to take suggestions - more songs? More art? More science? Let me know what you are looking for in your home, and I will try to assist! And as always, feel free to add your own suggestions for each holiday in the comments!

Ooh - I will also include lots of links to useful web pages: like 7 Sisters, where I found the above meme! In the meantime, click over to the new blog and bookmark it, then don't forget to check back February 28!

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Review: The Princess and the Frogs by Veronica Bartles and Sara Palacios

Love me a well-done fractured fairy tale!


The cover grabbed me right away - now here is a princess we can all relate to! Her sense of style reminds me of a certain princess in my own household, too.

Princess Cassandra wants a pet to be her friend - one who will jump and play and swim with her, and preferably one who matches her favorite green dress. A frog, of course, is a perfect fit, and everything is going great - until she kisses him goodnight. Now he is a prince! And he wants to marry her, too - no thanks! She tries frog after frog, but each time she kisses them good night, the same thing happens. What's a princess to do?

Young readers will enjoy the silliness, and I commend Palacios for managing to make each frog (and each prince) look completely different. This one is sure to make it into my story time line-up - after I take it home for a while first!

Monday, February 13, 2017

Review: Not Quite Black and White, by Jonathan Ying and Victoria Ying


Silly animals star in this lively picture book that introduces colors in a unique and catchy way. Have you ever seen a zebra wearing pink polka dots? Or a penguin with bright-yellow boots?
Typically black and white animals (the tiger may give children pause) are featured in colorful accessories, beginning with basic hues and expanding into those like aqua or maroon. An underlying message of embracing differences, as well as not seeing people animals as simply black or white will be obvious to adults, but isn't heavy handed.

Illustrations are crisp and colorful, slightly cartoony. This is the first book from the brother and sister duo, with a second due out in June. Not the first book I would grab to teach about colors, but one that will do the job nicely and with a bit of fun. Worth a spot on the shelves!

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Books I Couldn't Finish: Ronit and Jamil by Pamela L. Laskin


Ronit, an Israeli girl, lives on one side of the fence. Jamil, a Palestinian boy, lives on the other side. Only miles apart but separated by generations of conflict—much more than just the concrete blockade between them. Their fathers, however, work in a distrusting but mutually beneficial business arrangement, a relationship that brings Ronit and Jamil together. And lightning strikes. The kind of lightning that transcends barrier fences, war, and hatred.
The teenage lovers fall desperately into the throes of forbidden love, one that would create an irreparable rift between their families if it were discovered. But a love this big can only be kept secret for so long. Ronit and Jamil must face the fateful choice to save their lives or their loves, as it may not be possible to save both.
I really wanted to like this. In fact, I took it with me when I knew I was going to have to sit and wait somewhere for an hour or so. I ended up balancing my checkbook instead. In trying to push the similarities between the two main characters, any distinction between their voices was lost. They didn't alternate, which would have helped, but sometimes 'spoke' twice in a row, making me re-read each page once I realized it was the same person speaking again. It got irritating very quickly, and couldn't hold my attention - and it had my full attention at the start! Great concept, disappointing execution.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Review: I Love Cake! by Tammi Sauer and Angie Rozelaar


In I Love Cake!, the first picture book featuring irrepressible Moose, orderly Rabbit, and fun-loving Porcupine, Rabbit plans a fabulous birthday party with fun activities and a delicious cake. Porcupine and Moose come to enjoy Rabbit’s big day, but everything goes south when impulsive Moose loses control of his appetite!

The illustrations and dialogue are what make this book stand out. Moose has a somewhat silly sense of humor that kids will enjoy. Sheridan always likes to read the side comments with great expression while I read the main text, and this one is right up her alley! The pictures are simple, but eye-catching and cheery. And, there's cake!

This would have been great to read aloud with the kids while we were waiting for Sheridan's birthday party to start, and that yummy cake was tempting us from the kitchen - next birthday! In the meantime, there are hints that Rabbit, Porcupine and Frog Moose will be back again, so we will be keeping an eye out for their next tale.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Toddler STEM - Things That Roll

I didn't get too many pictures of this month's Toddler STEM, because it got a little chaotic. A local daycare came to join us, and there just weren't enough adults to kids to keep things in their respective centers, and it kind of turned into a free-for-all! Lesson learned, and next month I will look at some way of making visual barriers to keep things straight. The centers themselves were fun, though, so here is what I do have, in case anyone else can use them:

LEGO Marble Mazes

Of course LEGOs are always a big hit, and here I challenged kids to build a maze and then get their marble through it by tipping the base plate back and forth (I stink at that, by the way.) Since there were small pieces involved, this center was up on tables.

And don't you just LOVE that outfit?!

Corncob Pit

A very popular center, as much for the sensory fun of playing in the corncob pellets as anything else! The idea was to see whether size of tire or car made a difference in how well it could travel - but mostly it was just fun with cars.

City Planning

I found this removable road tape on Amazon, and put it on poster board to make it a little more durable.

Ramp it Up

A smooth road, a rough road, and one with speed bumps. Which one can cars go faster on? What if we raise or lower the end, does that change things?

Marble Painting

We did this in story time a little while ago, and it's too much fun not to repeat.

Of course the marbles DO go flying, which is why we don't have carpet in that room any more! It wipes right up, and the kids created some really cool artwork in the process.

I also had a 'golf course' set up in the middle of the room - a zig-zag path marked out with masking tape, and empty cans taped at the end - but it was pretty much obliterated by kids running every direction and kicking balls around. Like I said, lesson learned! Thanks to everyone who came and played with us!

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Frozen Birthday Party (for real people)

So, as I posted Monday, Sheridan turned SEVEN this week. Still not quite sure how that happened. 

I do not by any means think every child's birthday party needs to have a theme, it just makes it fun for me. I do big themed events at work, and I figure I should put a little of that energy into my own kids' parties! I also don't believe in breaking the bank, though, so these are all ideas you can do on a very limited budget.

When I asked Sheridan a couple months ago what theme she wanted, she settled pretty firmly on the movie Frozen. After my initial thoughts of "Really? Still???" I realized the month following Christmas is the perfect time for a Frozen themed party - all those snowflakes and white tinsel at 75% off!

I think I spent a total of $10 on decorations, and mostly on items I can use again next Christmas. Score! I put most of it up while she was at Grandma's, so she came home to a (smallish) winter wonderland. The gift table to the right has white tinsel garland wrapped in white Christmas lights (thanks Grandma!), making it look extra fancy at no cost.

I showed the kids how to make snowflakes a couple weeks ago, and they went to town.

They were EVERYwhere (still are). That was one part of decorating I could let Sheridan do all on her own, satisfying both of our needs to be in control.

Small splurge at the dollar store:

I was going to make a snowball toss game, but ended up just using them as utensil holders.

Our only activity (besides running through the house screaming, which is generally a given) was making snow slime:

I had one bowl with glue and glitter, and one with water and Borax, and they just had to mix equal parts. Then they got a baggie to take it home in (you're welcome, parents! I'm sure you'll get me back.)

If it's any consolation, I dumped the leftovers in my sink, and the glitter stuck to the stainless steel like you would not believe! Oops.

Instead of goodie bags, I made cocoa packets.

Thank-you, Disney, for making an easy-to-draw character! Each cup had a package of cocoa mix, blue candy cane, Frozen themed cookies for dunking, and a plastic spoon dipped in melted chocolate and silver sprinkles.

I love that all our friends from school seem to be healthy eaters - they'll eat cake, of course, but just as enthusiastically clear out a veggie tray. Since the party was at lunch time, I served the following:

Heck, it was already there, might as well slap a label on it.

Too lazy to clear off the buffet, so I draped it all in a 97 cent tablecloth and more Christmas decorations.

The blackberries were on sale, so I bought a ton - but I couldn't think of a "Frozen" connection other than reindeer poop. They were mostly devoured regardless.

Meatballs - which I almost didn't make, since we had sandwiches, but certain people told me they only came for my meatballs. Well, then.

Blue punch, lemon lime soda, and pineapple sherbet. Rather flavorless, I thought, but the kids didn't care. Oh, ignore the half-empty bottle of wine in the back.
And, of course, the cake! I always bake the cake, and Daddy decorates. Sheridan spent hours looking at all these fancy designs on Pinterest that were way beyond our abilities. Thank-you to my friend Lisanne for sharing this idea: 

Simple sugar candy shattered after it cooled. The figures were a part of her birthday present from us (ooh, look at all the tiny pieces, that's...great.) I was originally going to make it an ice cream cake - just cut out the middle part and fill it with ice cream (we found a blue and white swirl kind). That...didn't work out. Fortunately, issues happened BEFORE I added the ice cream, so I just had to re-bake an entire cake is all. Stupid Pinterest.

Sheridan had her Elsa dress from Halloween, and Shane was a tiny crazed snowman in his old Olaf costume. There was a flurry of activity and excitement before the guests came...

...or not. That's my girl! Then food, slime, running and screaming, and presents.

It's hard to say what she liked best, she loved everything she received - and there was a definite theme there, too!

A certain snowman who had his birthday last month did not quite understand why he couldn't open any gifts,

but some more snowball Jell-O helped him get over it.

Thank-you so much to all the friends who came and shared the day with us!