Books We Read – January 2013

[Disclaimer: Yes, I am well aware that February is almost halfway done, but this is how I roll sometimes..]

Here are the titles that we enjoyed (for the most part) last month:


  • Help Thanks Wow: Three Essential Prayers by Anne Lamott (slight book but packed with good life reminders)
  • The Round House by Louis Erdrich (Winner of National Book Award. Excellent. Characters stay with you. Enjoyable)
  • Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein (YA novel. Bit slow at times but couldn’t put down towards the end. Very Good)
  • Sh*tty Mom: The Parenting Guide for the Rest of Us by Laurie Kilmartin and others (Quick read. Not as funny as I expected it to be)
  • The One & Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate (Youth Fiction. Excellent Read. Interesting writing format. Winner of the Newberry. I read it right before it won. Always proud of myself when this happens!)
  • A Year of Biblical Womanhood by Rachel Held Evans (Non-Fiction. Surprised how much I really liked it. So good and funny too)

Miss M:

  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J. K. Rawling
  • Encyclopedia Brown, Boy Detective by Donald Sobol
  • Lenny & Mel’s Summer Vacation by Erik Kraft
  • Lenny & Mel: After School Confidential by Erik Kraft
  • 8 Class Pets + One Squirrel [divided by] One Dog = Chaos by Vivian Vande Velde
  • Louise the One and Only by Elizabeth Koehler-Pentacoff
  • The Fran That Time Forgot by Frannie K. Stein
  • plus many more that I didn’t write down – this girl LOVES to read!

C: (being read to)

  • What’s the Time, Mr. Wolf? by Debi Gliori
  • The Tale of Benjamin Bunny by Beatrix Potter
  • Appley Dapply’s Nursery Rhymes by Beatrix Potter (she loves these “little books” by B. Potter!)
  • Where’s the Fish? by Taro Gomi (simple words that C then memorizes & reads back to me – she also does this with Mo Willems books).
  • The Dangerous Alphabet by Neil Gaiman
  • Spike, the Mixed-Up Monster by Susan Hood (she loved this one. Bilingual in parts.)
  • The Monster Who Lost His Mean by Tiffany S. Haber
  • The Perfect Nest by Catherine Friend
  • plus many more – loves to be read to and “practice” reading by herself.




My girls are stuffed animal fans. I have found that there are usually two different camps of girls – those that like stuffed animals or dolls. While both of my girls will play with the occasional doll, they do not sleep with them, they do not call them their “buddies.”

This shouldn’t surprise me since I was the same way. Before the days of “Pillow Pets,” I would sleep with all of my animals lined up on my pillow with a tiny space left for my head against the wall. I did this for quite some time and knew it was unique enough that I actually took a picture of it before I went to bed one night. I even think my sister (9 1/2 years older) snuck into my room one night to take a picture too. I hate to admit it but I still have a bin full of my own “buddies” in our basement. This bin has moved with me from my parents home and probably makes my husband question my sanity (just a little bit).

Of all my stuffed animals, my favorite by far was and is Poopasha. Yes, Poopasha. I am not sure how old I was when I named him but I think I was around 5. The age where you find the word “poop” extra entertaining. I remember my dad asking me what I was going to name the dog (who is brown) and I coming up with the name off the top of my head. Poopasha has not been regulated to that bin in the basement. He has a place of honor on my dresser and even went with me when I went away to college.

As Miss M is now 8 she doesn’t play as much with her buddies but she still keeps them on her bed and sleeps on a unicorn pillow pet. Occasionally she will let C have one or two for her bed but sometimes she will suddenly realize that she doesn’t want them to stay on C’s bed too long. A couple of weeks ago something happened between the two girls that made me realize that M was still pretty firmly attached to one of her buddies.

Before I get to that story, I first have to tell you about Doggie aka FluffleBally. He is C’s special buddy. She sleeps with him, talks to him and for him (in a special voice). He is looking quite worn already and we hope he will make it through the rigors she puts him through.

Now back to what happened a couple of weeks ago. All of a sudden M realized that her Bear-Bear is now on C’s bed (where it had been for a couple of weeks at least). She suddenly wanted him back. C started crying that M can’t have him back because Bear-Bear is Doggie’s Daddy! M then started crying that she wanted her Bear-Bear back. Good times. The situation was finally resolved when I told C we would get her her own Bear-Bear to replace M’s. The next day we went and got Bearie the Bear-Bear, Doggie’s new Daddy.

I was really taken aback by M’s initial reaction. I didn’t expect the tears and complete exasperation on her part towards C having her Bear-Bear. Thinking back on it I realize that M was just rightfully claiming what is hers and that is good. So many times M will give into C since she is littler and also has a stronger personality than M. I am proud that M did not give in this time.

I am glad that both of my girls have these comfort items in their lives. I think it is always good and healthy to have something that you can confide in and be your true self to without feeling judged.

Buddies for life.

Comfort Items

Stuffed Animals through the years: (L-R) Bearie the Bear-Bear,Bear-Bear,Doggie/SnuffleBally, Poopasha

Do you have a stuffed animal buddy in your home?

Fifty Three

In 2002 I decided to record every book that I read during the year. I was working in libraries at the time and was reading a lot. Even though I was only 28 at the time I felt like I was rereading the same books without realizing it. So to solve this problem my reading log/journal was born. For ten years now I have written down every title that I have read (immediately after reading them) and record some initial reactions about the book. This is mainly so I can remember whether or not I liked the book and also if I would read the author again/recommend it to others.

Even though this journal is simply a listing of books and reactions, it has become a neat way to look back at my life over these past years. When I started it I was working full-time and had no children. I was discovering new authors (A. Manette Ansay/Myla Goldberg) and also reading some old favorites (Maeve Binchy/Anne Tyler). Then in the fall of 2003, J got a new job and we were suddenly moving back to Illinois (from Wisconsin). I stopped working in October and began the process of finding us a new home. That year saw titles like The DaVinci Code and The Five People You Meet in Heaven. Early in 2004 we were pregnant and so the book choices took a whole ‘nother turn towards childbirth and child-rearing like Misconceptions: Truth, Lies and the Unexpected on the Journey to Motherhood and Secrets of the Baby Whisperer and Babyhood. With a new baby and then toddler in the house, my reading took a back seat. Those were lean years of reading. But in 2008, M started preschool so with that came more independence for her and more free-time for me. I enjoyed Eat Pray Love and Every Last Cuckoo and Isabella Moon. Then in 2009, C happened. A baby (and a stong-willed one at that) makes herself known in our house and we decide to put our 2 bedroom house on the market in 2010. So the lean years returned for a while.

Which brings me to last year and the reason for the numbered title of this post. 2012 and 53. Much to my amazement I read 53 books this past year. It is the most I have ever read in a year. Some reasons for this are: this year I read more young adult fiction than I have ever in the past and C entered preschool this past fall. As I stated earlier, preschool truly helped both of my girls see that they are separate from me and gave them more confidence to not rely on me so much. So them being not so needy = more time for me to read, etc. My eyes were truly opened this year to the wonderful world of young adult/children fiction this year. I was mostly reading to get a heads up to what Miss M might be reading sooner rather than later. But boy was I in for a delightful surprise to discover books that touched me deeply, made me laugh and genuinely a joy to read.

My favorites for 2012?

Wonder by R. J. Palacio

Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Sandcastle Girls by  Chris Bohjalian

The Age of Miracles by Karen T. Walker

How about you? What are your favorites over the past year?


Ever since J and I got married back in July of 1999, we have spent Thanksgiving with his folks in Southern Illinois. This year was different. His folks decided to visit J’s 94-year-young grandmother over the Thanksgiving holiday in South Carolina. So for the first time in 14 years we were home.

In our town there is an annual Turkey Trot through the downtown area on Thanksgiving morning. This 5K is held in memory of a man that worked at my high school at the same time I was there. The money raised for the “race” goes toward scholarships for high school students of character. As they state on their website: “The Bonfield Express Foundation is a fast-growing local charity working to build character and community commitment in high school students.”In the back of my mind I have always thought that it would fun to participate in this event. I think I also thought this because I knew I probably would never get a chance.

So, the chance arrived. I then looked at the weather reports. When I saw that it was supposed to be in the 50s and probably the 40s for that morning (the race is at 8:30) I began to think more seriously about it. I told J what I was thinking. His initial response was “You are going to be totally beat for the rest of the day.” I told him that I wouldn’t run the whole way and that I have walked in many 5Ks in the past. I would be fine. So I took the plunge and signed up.

On the Sunday prior to the race, I decided I better go buy some actual exercise pants since I had been walking/minimal jogging in my jeans up to this point. So after purchasing some good ole Target pants, I tried them out around the neighborhood. With the help of my fitbit I tried to go as close to the distance set for Thursday. I even tried to run most of it. This was a first for me. I took the plunge and was proud of myself for running longer than I had previously while taking periodic walking breaks. I was home in about 45 minutes and did about three miles.

The day of the race arrives. A beautiful sunny brisk day. J and the girls come with me to cheer me on. We arrive at the event and meet 6,000 of my closest friends. Wow. Biggest race turnout yet. I attempt to get in front of the walkers. I decide I am going to try to run this thing as long as I am able. J and the girls go off to the coffee shop and plan on meeting me at the finish line. The national anthem is sung. All 6,000 voices are silenced. Then the race began.

I am proud to say that I ran and I kept running. Didn’t even stop to get a drink of water or a donut (as some kind homeowner was passing out!) My jogging speed may have been the same as a fast walker but … I was running! It was so neat to see people coming out of their houses, banging their pots and pans and clapping/cheering us on. My end time was 43:41. Not too shabby.

One last thing. Remember how J said I was going to be all tired afterwards? Guess who was the tired one on Friday and had to take a nap and all? I’ll just say it wasn’t me.

Tis a ‘Treat’ to be Remembered

Everyone loves receiving mail, especially when it isn’t bills! The girls get such a simple thrill when something comes in the mail with their name on it. With the craziness of life it is sometimes hard to remember our loved ones special days and so we deprive them of this little joy as well.

That may seem a bit too harshly stated, but I do believe that with the advent of social media (I’m looking at you, Facebook) we think that just because we acknowledged someone’s birthday via a post to their ‘wall,’ we are good to go. Our work here is done, etc. Well it doesn’t have to be that way and Treat can help.

What is Treat?

Treat is Shutterfly’s exciting new greeting card brand that makes it easy for people to create and send one-of-a-kind greeting cards. Treat cards are perfect for holidays, birthdays, congrats, thank yous and every occasion in between. It’s crazy fun. It’s super easy. And it’s totally personal.

Do you have a special someone in your life that would love to receive a card in the mail? Treat will help you personalize and tailor that special card to make it just your own. And since it is a Shutterfly brand you can be certain that you can include your pictures on the card as well.

Want to give Treat a try? For FREE? Of course you do! Just check out their many selections and pick out a card and make it your own. Then enter the code TREATBLOGR in the coupon code box. This coupon is only good today, November 19th and tomorrow, November 20th, so go there now before you forget!

Think of the smile, think of the love..


I was provided with free cards from Treat for this post, but the opinions expressed within are completely my own. 

Shutterfly Thanks the Troops (and so can you!)

I was asked by Shutterfly to share with you something neat that they are currently doing over on their Facebook page. Right now, in honor of Veteran’s Day this upcoming Sunday, Shutterfly will send a customized card on your behalf (and at no cost to you) to a person currently serving in the military. They are attempting to send a card to every single one of these dedicated people. Won’t you do your part?

It really is simple and doesn’t take more than five minutes of your time. Here’s how:

  1. Go to Shutterfly’s facebook page and “Like” them if you haven’t already.
  2. Click on this link or the link found on their fan page under the post “Thank the Troops.”
  3. Pick out your card (below is a sample of the four choices) and personalize it however you want. You can even add a photo if you wish.
  4. Click send and Shutterfly does the rest!

My brother-in-law and his family are currently proudly serving our country. Words can not express how appreciative I am for their sacrifices for our safety. Sending a card is a small way of paying back that ever-lasting debt of gratitude.

This is a sponsored post by Shutterfly but all statements are mine.


Election Reflection

Yesterday was an interesting day. Not only was it Election Day it was also the 28th anniversary of my dad’s death. Back on that day in 1984, when he passed away, it was also an election day. He was a staunch Democrat so the joke was made after he passed that Bob didn’t want another four years of Reagan. He had a wicked sense of humor so he would have appreciated that one. I think it is fitting that on this particular anniversary we elected our first African-American president to a second term. My dad certainly would have voted for him. It makes me happy when I reflect on the things that would have made him happy.  So that helped to make the day brighter.

Another bright point of the day was seeing how excited and interested Miss M was in the electoral process. I always try to take the girls with me to vote but this time, Miss M. was especially interested in what the ballot said and what I was marking. I had promised the girls stickers from the voting place prior to going there. Unfortunately they were all out by the time we arrived (around 4:30pm). C was especially disappointed but we decided to make our own stickers at home and wait till Daddy got home to borrow his since he voted at 6am. This satisfied them. M enjoyed looking at the map and seeing all the different states turn different colors. I relished in her enthusiasm – even if it was partly a ploy to stay up a bit later than usual! M kept asking when we would know who was voted the next president. Both J and I told her that it won’t be decided until after she went to bed and maybe not even until after we went to bed as well. We were right. Although many networks declared Obama victorious by 10pm central time, no speeches were given until 1am!

When M woke up this morning, her first question was Is Obama still president? I told her I think so but that it wasn’t definite when I went to bed at 11pm. So we went downstairs and checked the computer. Some funny quotes from the girls as they looked on and saw the new final map with all states colored in except Florida: Miss M seeing Florida not colored in “Wonder why Florida didn’t vote. Maybe their people fell asleep counting votes.” and C upon recognizing her state on the map “There’s our state, Illinois, a blue state!”

I love being able to share this with my daughters. We are so blessed to live in the times we do with so many freedoms. I can hope through my example of civic duty I will enstill in them (as my parents did in me) the blessings and power that comes from using your right to vote.

Low-Key Birthdays

Two weekends in a row we celebrated Miss M’s birthday. One Saturday for the family, the next for friends. We had the family party here. I do not decorate a lot or try to spend a lot of money for birthday parties. Although I enjoy looking at the gorgeous photos that people post from their children’s parties, that is not me. Case in point, here is a photo from Miss M’s family party:

As you can see, our decorations consisted of one “Happy Birthday” sign (purchased from the Dollar Store about three birthdays ago) and one Party City balloon with the word “Rock” on both sides and a picture of a guitar on one, and a skull and crossbones on the other. Yep. Keeping it classy. Miss M picked out the balloon. It is our one extravagance for their family party.

We served pizza (takeout/Aurelio’s), soda (to be poured by yourself from the 2 liter bottles in the fridge), salad (freshly prepared by J) and dessert. J and M made an awesome Kit-Kat Cake that turned out so good:

Doesn’t that look fancy? It is really SO easy! Miss M enjoyed putting the M and M’s on top.

So there you have it. Low-key decorating/partying on the cheap. In our family (and I am sure in yours as well) our focus is on the gathering of people to celebrate another’s day of birth. I try to keep that in my focus and not get too consumed by having a perfect house with lots of decorations. I appreciate it when others do it but for me this is enough. And that is all good.

How do you do birthdays? I will talk about Miss M’s kid party soon.

Thinking Ahead with Shutterfly

I have some news. Some of you might think it is good news, some not so good news. Here it goes: in just about two more months it will be Christmas. Say What?! Christmas! The Christmas catalogs are already starting to arrive at my house. The three year old has already mastered the refrain of “I want that” towards practically everything she sees. So along with the catalogs comes the thinking of what our Holiday Cards will look this year. We usually try to take a family picture at the local Arboretum every year and use that as the main photo on our card. This year I am thinking of looking at the designs that Shutterfly offers first and perhaps try to coordinate what we will wear to the card that we like best.

Here are some Holiday Cards that I am considering.  Let me know your thoughts: 

Blessed Tidings: I like the simplicity of this one.

Blessed Script: I really like the fonts used here.

Merry Filled Wishes: I like the simple black border.

A couple of things I have noticed as I have been searching through all of the selections of Holiday Cards is not just that I really like simple cards (and the word blessed) but also I am really liking the idea of using black and white photos this year! I think also choosing a card with little or no border takes the pressure off of matching your card to the outfits in the photo you use. Whew.

Why not take a moment and check out all that Shutterfly has to offer for your Holiday Cards needs this year? They have some great special offers going on right now. Just think what a relief it will be to at least have picked out your cards.  Remember … only two more months!

Please let me know what your favorite card is and/or what you think of my choices.

Take Care,


P.S. This is a sponsored post on behalf of Shutterfly. Although I will be getting free cards out of the deal, all the opinions expressed are mine and mine alone.