My Favorite Children’s Books: Board Book Edition

I was a pretty anxious new mom. Was my daughter eating enough? Was she on a good sleep schedule? Should I be cutting her blueberries up any smaller, or was into quarters sufficient? (That’s a true story, btw.) Was I doing everything I could to help her grow and develop? Even now that she’s seven, I still have lots of questions about the best things I can do to raise her well.

From the beginning, though, I spent lots and lots of time reading to her. I knew the benefits of reading to babies and children were countless, and as someone who’s loved reading for as long as I can remember, this was one thing I felt completely confident doing for and with my daughter.

We had many, many board books in her room, and I enjoyed reading most of them. (I confess that I had a hard time with the Karen Katz books…) Now, several years removed from the board book stage, these stand out as some of my favorites:

Listen, Listen

Hands down, this is my favorite board book. There are so many things I love about it – the gorgeous illustrations, the rhythmic, rhyming text, the depiction of seasonal change and the beauty in every season. I also have an emotional attachment to this book, since my husband and I read it to our daughter quite a bit, and eventually realized that she had learned a lot of her early vocabulary from it.

I Love You, Stinkyface

I received this as a baby shower gift, and loved the cute title. But as we started reading it to our daughter, I also fell in love with the sweet way it shows a mother’s unconditional love for her child – without being too sappy. To this day, both my husband and I will occasionally call our daughter, “Stinkyface.”

Jamberry

This one was another shower gift, and I’ll admit that it took a little time to grow on me. My daughter loved the illustrations, though, and it’s written in rhythmic, rhyming text, which is very helpful for early language development. Plus, I’m a fan of berries, which are celebrated throughout this book.

My First Book of Girl Power

I’ve never been much of a superhero fan, but my daughter developed an early interest in them. Naturally, I was immediately drawn to the title of this book, but what I really like about it is the emphasis on a variety of positive traits, including teamwork, problem-solving, and, of course, strength.

The Hat

I’m a big Jan Brett fan, and this was my introduction to her work. I’m also a sucker for hedgehogs, and this book is about one who gets a sock stuck on his prickly head. What could be more endearing than that?? As someone who struggles a bit with winter’s cold barrenness, I appreciate that the illustrations in this book make it seem almost cozy, in a hygge sort of way.

The Going to Bed Book

I love  routines, and this adorable book walks the reader through a group of animals’ somewhat silly bedtime routine. It’s great for teaching this concept to toddlers, by combining the slightly ridiculous – exercising in the moonlight – with the more practical – brushing teeth.

What are some of your favorite board books?

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What’s Your Reading Style?

I am a podcast junkie. Whenever I’m in the car, cleaning my house, or doing anything else that allows for multi-tasking, I’m listening to one. One of my very favorite podcasts is Sorta Awesome. The hosts cover a variety of topics, both light and deep, with some recurring themes. One of those themes is reading, a favorite hobby of mine. I recently listened to the Best in Books and Reading in 2016 episode, and one of the things the hosts discussed was their reading style – what started their love of reading, what kinds of books are they drawn to, and how they like to read. This got me thinking about my answers to the same questions…

My Reading History

For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved reading. I clearly remember devouring all of the books by Beverly Cleary, Judy Blume, and other authors I loved during my childhood. I love reading during car rides, and did so on weekend trips to visit my grandparents, as well as family vacations. About a decade ago, I had a job that required a horrible, two-hour commute each way, and I got a lot of reading done on my train rides home from work. (I passed out most mornings before the train even left the station.)

As a child, I used to re-read my favorite books multiple times. (I can’t tell you how many times I read Beverly Cleary’s The Luckiest Girl, or Judy Blume’s, Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret!!) But these days I never re-read. There are too many other books I want to read, to spend time reading the ones I’ve already read.

My Taste in Books

Until about 15 years ago, I only read fiction for pleasure. Reading nonfiction was reserved for school, and later, it just didn’t seem like fun. These days, I really enjoy learning from the books I read, so between half and two-thirds of the books I read are nonfiction.

Like Laura, one of the Sorta Awesome podcast hosts, I prefer to read darker books. This has been a thread throughout my life. For example, one of the books I remember being most impacted by as a child was Where the Red Fern Grows. That was the first book that made me cry, and just thinking about it now, still brings tears to my eyes!

More recently, as soon as I heard about the book, A Mother’s Reckoning: Living in the Aftermath of Tragedy, by Sue Klebold, I had to read it, and once I started it, I could not put it down. I don’t know what it says about me, but I love a book that makes me cry and makes me think.

Within nonfiction, my favorite genres include history and biography/memoir. And in fiction, I especially love historical fiction.

How I Read Books

As a creature of comfort, I’m not a fan of the new. I’m always late to the party, no matter what the “new” thing is – smart phones, skinny jeans, even podcasts. I’m definitely a late adopter. So it should come as no surprise that I like reading books in physical, paper form. I have never read anything on a Kindle or other e-reader, and I don’t intend to start. (Part of this also stems from my dislike for reading on screens, in general.)

As for audio books, I haven’t tried them because I’m concerned I’ll get distracted and miss parts of the text. However, since my current commute is close to an hour each way and I’ll be working more days this winter, I decided to give Audible a try. I just signed up for their 30-day free trial, and my first book will be Lilac Girls. One of the Sorta Awesome hosts mentioned that the people who listened to this particular book seemed to enjoy it more than the people who read it, so I decided to give it a try.

All-Time Favorites

While it’s impossible for me to remember all of the books I’ve read – let alone chose a few favorites – here are some that stick out in my mind as having been especially enjoyable reads:

What’s your reading style? What are some of your all-time favorite reads?

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I’m Throwing in the Towel

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I really, really love checking things off of lists. It’s one of the reasons I chose my Day Designer planner when I was looking for a new one: each day has a to-do list on the same page as my hour-by-hour calendar. Swoon… In many ways, this is a positive trait, since it pushes me to finish things I’ve started. However, it also makes it difficult for me to throw in the towel before I’ve completed something – even when it’s clear that I need to.

In recent years, I’ve come to understand how limited time can be, and have started pulling the plug on things, rather than spend waste more time on them. Exhibit A: I used to force myself to read all of the articles in magazines, because I didn’t feel like I’d really read the magazine if I didn’t. These days, I give an article a paragraph or two, before deciding if reading on is really how I want to spend my time. I’ve also made this shift with books, and today I’m sharing the decision I just made to stop reading a book I’m only a little more than halfway through.

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If you’ve read my fall reading list post, you know that I Know How She Does It, by Laura Vanderkam, is on it. I heard the author interviewed on several podcasts this summer, and her time management message really resonated with me. As a result, I picked up several of her books at the library, and decided to start with this one. I started out strong, but have lost my momentum, and haven’t read a single paragraph in several days. (No, the irony of struggling to finish a time management book is not lost on me.) Coincidentally, I read another blogger’s post about the books she had read in September, commented with the books I had read, and mentioned that I’d just started reading I Know How She Does It. The blogger commented back that she had not been able to get through it, and asked what I thought of it. When I read this reply, something clicked, and I knew that it was time to throw in the towel on this book.

What’s Wrong With It?

I don’t dislike this book, but there are two, big reasons that I’ve lost interest in it. First, I heard the author talk about it several times, so I already knew the message. A little more than halfway through, I haven’t discovered anything that different from what I heard on the podcasts. As I said, I like the author’s premise: that many of us think we’re busier than we really are, and that while it’s difficult to achieve balance every day, most people achieve a good amount ofbalance throughout any given week. To demonstrate this, she recommends that people track their time for a week, then review how they spent it. I tracked my own time for a week, and while I wasn’tsurprised about how I spent most of it, it was helpful for me to see just how unfocused I can be when I’m not at work, and juggling home, blog, and parenting. Adding more structure to my at-home days would definitely be helpful. (If you’d like to track your time, Laura Vanderkam provides free documents for doing so here.)
The second reason I lost interest in I Know How She Does It, is that it’s not exactly applicable to me. The messages about prioritization and time management definitely apply to everyone, but the target audience for this book is full-time, working mothers, who earn $100,000 or more per year. Mother? Check! Work full-time? Nope. Earn $100,000. Negative. The women profiled in the book all met these criteria, and the descriptions of how they spend their time were interesting, but not particularly relatable for me.
So, after renewing the book from the library, and carrying it around my house for several days, I’ve pulled out my bookmark and set I Know How She Does It in the library return pile. What am I picking up next? Drumroll please…
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Have you decided to set aside any books before you finished them?

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What’s Up Wednesday: September, 2016

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I’ve been reading What’s Up Wednesday posts for a while, so I’m very excited to do my own this month…

What We’re Eating This Week: I dusted off my slow-cooker when the temps cooled and I went back to work. This week I’m using it to make two, new-to-me recipes. We’re also having taco salads and breakfast-for-dinner, two family favorites. You can see my full meal plan for the week here.

What I’m Reminiscing About: Because my daughter’s birthday is coming up,  I can’t help but reminisce about her arrival in our lives. She hung on for a few days past her due date, my doctor induced me, and she ultimately was born via c-section, seven years ago. Sniff, sniff…

What I’m Loving: Apples, and pumpkins, and squash – oh my!

What We’ve Been Up To: Settling back into our school-year routines. In addition to my daughter being back in school, I’m back at work two days per week, and my daughter is doing several extracurricular activities (hip hop dance, gymnastics, and Brownies). I’m also blogging (obviously), and in the midst of my semi-annual purge of my daughter’s outgrown clothes.

What I’m Dreading: Darkness. Even though the days have been getting shorter since the summer solstice, I only really started noticing a difference in late August. By the end of next month, it’s going to be very noticeable, and once we set the clocks back in early November, well, I don’t even want to think about that…

What I’m Working On: This week I’m tracking how I spend my time in 30-minute increments. I’m reading I Know How She Does It, by Laura Vanderkam, and she suggests that better time management starts with tracking how you’re already spending your time. I’m also trying to complete an editorial calendar for October for this blog, and starting to understand my least favorite social media tool, Pinterest. (I consider it a black hole, where I end up spending way too much time, and come out feeling incredibly uncreative.)

What I’m Excited About: Fall decorations!! It took me a while to warm up to them this year, but I’m thrilled to have mums, corn stalks, and pumpkins out at our house now.

What I’m Watching/Reading: I don’t really watch any TV shows, but I’m a bit of a news junkie. However, I’ve scaled it back this summer and fall, since I just can’t take any more election coverage. November 8th cannot come soon enough for me! As I mentioned above, I’m currently reading I Know How She Does It, by Laura Vanderkam. (You can see everything on my fall reading list here.)

What I’m Listening To: Podcasts galore! In particular, I just started listening to Her Monday with Jean Chatzky, and I’ve been binge-listening to catch up on the episodes I missed.

What I’m Wearing: Fleece, sweaters, long-sleeve tees, jeans, and boots – my kind of clothes!

What I’m Doing This Weekend: Saturday is my 11th wedding anniversary. Unfortunately, I didn’t schedule a babysitter on-time, so we’ll be enjoying a family anniversary dinner, followed by a date night next weekend. Other than that, we don’t have any plans at this point. (And that’s just how I like it!)

What I’m Looking Forward to Next Month: Our anniversary, my daughter’s 7th birthday and two parties to celebrate it, and Halloween!

What Else Is New: Work, school, fall… isn’t that enough?!?

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My Fall Reading List

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One of my favorite things to do when the weather gets chilly is to curl up on the couch with a mug of coffee or tea, and read a good book. I was very happy with the books I read over the summer, and I’m looking forward to some more good reads this fall. Here’s what’s on my fall reading list:

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Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, by J.D. Vance. I saw the author of this book discuss it on several news programs this summer, and it sounded like a very interesting look into a place (Appalachia) and culture (hillbilly) I know very little about. (Confession: I actually finished this book last weekend. Is including here like putting something you’ve already done on a to-do list, just so you can cross it off? I’m not saying I’ve ever done that, but I’ve heard that other people do…)

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The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, by Charles Duhigg. I read another book by this author – Smarter, Faster, Better: The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business – over the summer, and heard this book mentioned on the Afford Anything podcast. I’m generally a big fan of habits, so I’m hoping this book will help me make the most of this trait.

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The Bucolic Plague, by Josh Kilmer-Purcell. I’m late to the Fabulous Beekman Boys party, but I’m on-board now! I watched the first season of the show on DVD this summer, and it fed right into my secret desire to be a gentlewoman farmer some day. Plus, who doesn’t love a flock of adorable goats??

41r1sidfyl-_sx331_bo1204203200_Columbine, by David Cullen. I heard about this book on the true crime episode of the Sorta Awesome podcast – one of my absolute favorite podcasts, BTW – and I was intrigued when one of the hosts said it gives a much fuller picture of that awful incident than is typically covered in the media. (I read the amazing book, A Mother’s Reckoning: Living in the Aftermath of Tragedy, by Sue Klebold, this spring, and could not put it down.)

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I Know How She Does It: How Successful Women Make the Most of Their Time, by Laura Vanderkam. I wasn’t familiar with this author, until I heard her interviewed on the Afford Anything podcast. I found what she had to say about the effective use of our time, very interesting, and decided to read her books. I’m starting with this one.

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The Mindful Child: How to Help Your Kid Manage Stress and Become Happier, Kinder, and More Compassionate, by Susan Kaiser Greenland. I struggle with making mindfulness a consistent part of my life, but I understand the immense benefits it can provide. I want to help my daughter take advantage of these benefits, too, only earlier in life than I have.

What are you reading these days? Can you recommend anything else I should read?
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My Summer Reading List

Summer is officially here, which means it’s time to get started on my summer reading list. While I can’t guarantee I’ll get through all of these this summer, I’d really like to.

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Long Live the King, by Fay Wheldon. This is the second in a trilogy of books about a wealthy Earl’s family and his servants at the turn of the (twentieth) century. I read the first one several months ago, and really enjoyed it. I started reading this book about a week ago, but set it down to read…

41oyn7GqTRL._SX327_BO1,204,203,200_A Mother’s Reckoning: Living in the Aftermath of Tragedy, by Sue Klebold. The second I learned about this book, I HAD to read it. I picked it up at the library yesterday, and I haven’t been able to put it down! (Except to blog about it, apparently.) I simply cannot think of a worse experience for a parent to live through. I’m in awe of Ms. Klebold’s ability to persevere through this experience, and her commitment to helping other families avoid similar horrors.

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The Nest, by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney. I read about this one in the most recent issue of Money Magazine. It’s a novel about dysfunctional, adult siblings trying to manage their inheritance, as well as their relationships. It sounds a bit like a guilty pleasure book, to me.

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The Great Hunger: Ireland 1845-1849, by Cecil Woodham-Smith. This is a period of history about which I know next to nothing, and would like to learn more.

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The Confidence Game: Why We Fall for It Every Time, by Maria KonnikovaThis is another one I read about in Money Magazine. It’s about cons and Ponzi schemes, and, well, why we fall for them.

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The New Countess, By Fay Wheldon. This is the third book in the trilogy I mentioned above. Finishing the set should help fill the void left by the loss of Downton Abbey

What are you reading this summer?

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