Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Sun

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I'm at Segullah today. I took NASA along with me, as well as Mary Oliver. Much more fun that way.

You have to watch this extraordinary NASA video of the sun (link at Segullah). 200 million images taken over a period of five years. Up close. Fountains and loops of light like I've never seen. Honestly, amazing.

And Oliver's poem, as usual, is cause for introspection, redirection.


Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Valentine Surprise

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Half our valentines arrived on time. The others did not. Kinda like this post. 
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But that's okay, right? 

It's the love that counts.

Valentine's Day began with sunlight pouring in the windows, children slowly rolling out of bed and coming into the kitchen for heart-shaped pancakes... that didn't quite turn out.

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But our neighbor Kristie brought us gorgeous homemade cookies (she's the gingerbread lady, the cookie queen) and they tasted just as good as they looked! Which kind of made up for my pancake fail.

After doing a few jobs, the kids raced outside to play. It was another gorgeous 60 degree day. So unusual for a Salt Lake winter. 

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But look at these amazing sunsets we've been having! This was Valentine's Eve.

Then we got a phone call. Gordon was hurt. Badly enough that Miss Betsy (our dear friend and Eliza's piano teacher) didn't dare move him. The boys and Sami had wandered down to her house and were jumping on a nearby trampoline.

It helps if you jump ON the trampoline, rather than on the springs. Especially when jumping from a rock several feet above the tramp. But Gordon likes to be different. You know, try new things.

Sami and Spencer were with him when it happened. One leg went through the springs as momentum catapulted him forward. The other bent on top. Hard to know exactly what happened. But once Sami could tell Gordon was really hurt, she sent Spencer home to tell Mom and Dad.

Luckily, Miss Betsy was out walking and saw Spencer heading up the street by himself. She asked, "Where's your brother?" (Unusual to see him alone. They're like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Always together.) 

"He got hurt," said Spence. 

"Where is he?" asked Betsy.

"By your house," Spencer replied. So she hustled down the street and could soon hear Gordon screaming. 

Doug brought a very tearful Gordon home in the car. He was clutching his knee and wailing in pain. I called my Dad. (He thinks he's retired. But he's really on the Keddington Family Rescue Mission.) He came right over.

After a thorough examination, he finally got Gordon to extend his knee and felt there probably was no major bone damage. At least not that he could detect. No obvious fracture and the femur felt stable. But Gordon was still in a lot of pain and couldn't activate his quadriceps. Couldn't do a straight leg raise or press the back of his knee into my hand. So both my Dad and I were worried about a patellar tendon rupture or a tear of one of the supporting ligaments. 

My Dad ordered an MRI. But it was President's Day weekend and unless they called someone in, there would be no chance for an MRI until Tuesday.

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So we shuffled through the weekend, carrying Gordon from the couch to the bathroom and back, icing his knee, filling little cups with Ibuprofen, and making toast and eggs at 11PM because he couldn't sleep.

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By President's Day, he was getting antsy. So we wrapped his leg and covered him with blankets to venture out for a spin around the neighborhood. 

Ninja Turtle walkie-talkies made for fun communication as Spencer and their buddy Will darted in and out of bushes, trailing us from behind.

Now, enter Erica.

I've mentioned her before on my blog. Erica is my second cousin, more like first. Because my Dad and her Mom are like siblings. The Kimball family is tight. And lucky me, Erica lives two doors north of us. She works medical imaging at Primary Children's Hospital so I asked her Sunday if she thought she could get Gordon in for an MRI sooner rather than later.

And bless her heart, she worked a miracle getting him onto their packed schedule Tuesday.

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That was the first tender mercy. 

When you see God's blessings in your life, you have to write it down. You have to. Because sometimes you forget how aware He is. Sometimes you feel forgotten, like things will never work out. But when you return to stories like this, you remember. A knowing washes over you. An understanding that He sees your life and is a part of it.

To our delight, Erica was called in to help with their busy schedule and ended up being Gordon's nurse. Here she is prepping him for the MRI.

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I wish you could have seen Gordon's face when he saw this pretty lady coming to get him in the waiting room. He lives at her house when he's not at ours, and he was grinning ear to ear.

Mercies continued to fall into our lap that day. And we have Erica to thank for putting them in motion.

We came to the MRI with Gordon fasting, planning that he would need sedation. But when we got talking about the IV, Erica had the thought that maybe he could do it without. Even though they usually sedate for 7 and younger. She was inspired. She spoke to the radiologist, told him she knew his temperament and suggested he watch a movie. She thought he could hold still enough for them to try. The radiologist said yes.

And he did! He held still as a statue while watching Despicable Me through super cool video goggles.

Results? There was a fracture. Distal femur, posterior side. Greenstick fracture. Which pointed to a hyperextension injury. It's a good break to have. Very stable and hard to detect. Which is why my Dad didn't find it in his initial evaluation.

We were relieved to know the patellar tendon was intact, with minor damage to both tibial condyles and possibly the ACL. But all of that would heal on its own with non-weightbearing. 

A break? I thought. No surgery!? We can handle that! 

More mercies.

Just then, the orthopedist phoned from upstairs. One I had been trying to get in to all day. They asked where we were and I said downstairs, just finishing the MRI. They said, "Bring him up as soon as you're finished. We can see him now. Otherwise it will be a week before we can get him in." 

Because he hadn't had sedation we were able to wheel him right up to the 4th floor to see the orthopedist, who issued an immobilizing splint rather than a cast, making it much easier to bathe.

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So little bro here has four weeks of non-weightbearing to go. Make that 3 and a half. He's been doing puzzles and sticker books, drawing, watching more movies than usual, and writing thank you notes.

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This is his card for Miss Erica. Erica with her curly hair on left, Gordon with his broken leg on the right. Pretty cute.

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His buddy Luke brought over this darling candy gram. (Thank you Rebecca!)

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Spence was kind of lost for a few days without his brother. He was going to preschool without him, church without him, and one morning I found him playing cars downstairs by himself. When I knelt down by him he said, "I miss Gordon."

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But everyone has adjusted to Gordon's new norm. Including Gordon. He's scooting around on his tush, getting to the bathroom by himself, going to preschool in a stroller, and even climbed on the counter yesterday. His sisters have been carrying him here and there, thinking of what he might need or enjoy. They read to him, bring him special treats, play with him. 

He's had some frustrating days, but on the whole, I've been impressed with his happy spirit. His resilience. And his ability to adapt to a challenging situation.

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And Spencer decided it is more fun to play with Gordon, even if it means not biking or running through the neighborhood. They've done a lot of hanging out on the couch, lincoln logs, and looking through books. Pals through thick and thin. I'm so grateful they have each other.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Anyone Wanna Wear a Nacho?

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Last month we took the boys to Disneyland. We had an absolute blast. I wrote about one of our funniest moments at Multiply Goodness yesterday. You gotta hop over and read. It's short. And hopefully, it will crack you up like it did us.

As for everything beyond the nacho moment, here are a few pics. 

I'm so glad we had this time with just the boys. It was truly magical.

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Splash Mountain 6 times. Everyone's favorite. We packed in a bunch of rides our first night because that part of the park closed down the next day for maintenance.

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The Haunted Mansion. Still decked out for Jack Skellington's Scary Christmas. Very impressive. 

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Cars Land. If you have never been and you have children... heck - even if you don't have children, you have GOT TO GO. We were amazed. The Radiator Springs ride was incredible! I wish you could feel the magic in this photo - this moment when the boys saw Mater. He came rolling down the street, yammering away, like it was no big thing. But it was a BIG thing to them.

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Photo-op with Lightning. Ka-chow!

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Probably our favorite experience of the whole trip was Jedi Training.

Doug can die a happy man now that he's seen both his padawans become Jedis. When the Jedi Master was picking students, I had to become obnoxious Mom. I had to jump up and down, pointing at both of my boys, mouthing the word, "Twins! Twins!" I was so worried one would get picked and not the other. The Jedi Master, pictured above, got my drift, and nodded. Then he called both boys up to get their light sabers and robes. 

Darth was huge. 6'8" Doug and I figured. He's not in full stance in this photo. I couldn't believe how brave Spencer was. I would never have done this as a kid. Not in a million years.

Vader: "Ah the force is strong with this one," (in full-on James Earl Jones voice) as Spencer approached. "But he is not yet a Jedi."

Jedi Master: "Aw, come on! It's his first day!"

Spencer inched forward, extended his saber like a Harry Potter wand, and boom, they dueled to the finish.

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Poor Gordy had to fight Darth Maul. He was one scary dude. With full make-up and seething looks as he paced the crowd, even I was creeped out. I worried Gordon might turn tail before it was his turn. But he was fearless. It took him about 10 seconds to get his light saber activated (I was sweating bullets), but once he did, he busted some Jedi moves and Darth Maul gave him the "you haven't seen the last of me" glare.

Doug and I were cheering and hooting like crazy. So glad we didn't miss this!

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It's a Small World. An amazing world. Especially ablaze in Christmas lights.

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Day Two. This pretty much sums it up. Pluto (their favorite character) and pooped.

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Captain America was the real deal man. He played the part perfectly. When he found out Gordon had dressed up as Captain America for Halloween, he said, "Did you bring your shield with you?" Nope, we didn't. "Well next time, bring it and I will sign it for you." Now that would've been cool!

When he asked Spencer who his favorite super hero was, Spence said, "Batman." Captain America said "Hmm. I don't know him. Is he a good guy or a bad guy?" Spence said, "A good guy." "Well, then we are on the same team," replied the Captain.

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Spencer, virtually suiting up with Ironman. 

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Eating churros while waiting for Doug to ride California Screamin'. This was our favorite treat of the trip. I could eat these by the dozen. 

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"When you wish upon a star..."

Last night at Disney. Walking down Main Street.

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Downtown Disney. Balloon animals!

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And on our drive home, we stopped in Newport for a couple hours to introduce the boys to the beach, see Kara and family, hold babies, and eat lunch at Ruby's on the pier.

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I know. Explanation needed. Babies? Yes, babies. All is explained in a post I've drafted but not yet finished. Kara had her second set of twins in November. I have photos and an amazing story to tell you, which I will try to get by month-end. 

Look at her though. Gorgeous mommy with baby in arms.  I love her.

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The two hours we spent at the beach might have been as good as all of Disney combined. First time at the ocean for the boys. I warned them before they went barreling into the water, that it's not a pool. So they obediently waited for the waves to come to them. 

The first wave rolled up. As it surrounded their ankles and licked their knees, they slowly went sailing backwards. Imagine a tree when someone yells, "Timber!" Just like that. I didn't think to warm them about shifting sand or the retreating pull of the water. We had a good laugh.

But they were up in a flash and ready for more. The waves were coming in tall sets for a while, which the boys called "Tidal Waves." We couldn't get them to leave. Here they are... waiting for the big one.

Newport, you were lovely, warm, and calming. Just the sound of your ocean gave my heart a lift.

And Walt, you were a visionary man. Disney is quite the place. Thank you.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Favorite Children's Books from 2014

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Here it is! Another year. Another stack of books we've come to love. 

Books are kind of like children to me. Each has a different personality, tells a different story, lives out a unique life. Each is packaged in its own color and size, every page a unique style of art. I know each one. Where it sleeps. Which shelf, which nook, which stack. I don't like them stepped on or thrown. I bandage each torn page, each loose binding. And every year I wonder, can we make room for more?

And we always do. 

(You know that's not to say we're making room for more kids, right? Although, some days I wish we could!)

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As I took photos this year, I realized these posts are like a growth chart of my children. I started writing a favorite books post in 2011. For four years now, we've been exploring new books, discovering old ones, keeping track of which books meant something to us during twelve months of living, stretching, maturing. (Check out past book lists here.)

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Watching my children grow not just in size, but in love for reading, has been so rewarding. I hope they include me in their reading journey for years and years to come.

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I revisited Madeleine L'Engle's Circle of Quiet this Autumn and jotted down a few quotes. 

L'Engle, who authored a number of children's books, believed children could glean so much from books. She never dumbed down ideas for them. She knew they were wise, perceptive, and able to draw out meaning and truth from good writing. She said,

"If it's not good enough for adults. It's not good enough for children." (p. 198-200)

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And I agree with her. 

Children's books - good ones - are for grown ups too. 

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Magical birthday cake tradition, illustrated by Tasha Tudor

I will never tire of finding a new picture book that shares a powerful message or draws me in with its unique artistry or perfectly chosen words.

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Last Sunday morning, while waiting for church, we sat on the couches and opened our favorite books from 2014. 

These two boys. Spencer (left) Gordon (right). My best buddies during the day. It's my last year with them home and I hope we're making the most of it. They're a delight. Most of the time. Other times? They're brandishing strong wills like dragons. Fierce little fellas. Sometimes I'm just outnumbered.

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This girl... she's  growing up. Doing her own hair, getting tall. Soon I'll be the one standing on the stool to weave a french braid, place a clip, or comb out the snarls after a bath.

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She's turning into quite the tease.

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Once Upon an Alphabet. Best alphabet book out there. Details below.

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Mo Willems. He's always a favorite. 

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Sometimes it's the texture of the page...

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Sami, 8 years old in just a week. Engrossed in Anamalium. She wants to research animals, be a wildlife biologist when she grows up. This book has captivated her for a whole hour some afternoons.

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Sami did a book talk on it in her class Friday. Shared all sorts of facts and told me the kids had their eyes glued on her. "I think they liked it," she said.

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Katie Scott's illustrations are so real, they're remarkable.

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Ali, also coming up on 8. Such a helpful girl around the house. Often my sidekick when it comes to meal prep or chores. She is reading The Girl that Never Made Mistakes. 

Some of my children need the reminder that it's okay to make a mistake, to try things they might not be good at. This story does it. And it's a good reminder for Mom. Who can sometimes set expectations too high.

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Ali's favorite this year. Blue on Blue.

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All the kids loved this artwork and searching for parts of the story in each scene.

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And the latest by Hervé Tullet, Mix It Up. His work is so engaging. So interactive and fun. Especially for littles. 

So here's our list of twenty books from 2014 that we loved, loved, loved. In no particular order, with several that were published earlier.

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Animalium by Jenny Broom and Katie Scott -  "Welcome to the Museum." That's what this book states on its cover. The first I've seen in a series that will expose children to a showcase of the world's finest collections - from natural history to art. This volume is an illustrated walk through a museum featuring all kinds of land animals, water animals, and birds. Complete with descriptions and interesting facts about each animal, the book is organized into "galleries" that are open 365 days a year, and not confined by the limits of physical space. Scott's illustrations are impeccable. Life-like. Gorgeous. An absolute delight for any animal lover. (More photos above.)

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Pigeon Needs a Bath by Mo Willems -  Newest Pigeon book by Mo Willems. He always makes us laugh. Pigeon is just part of the family now. Every kid will relate to the story of fighting and resisting bath time ("I took a bath LAST month!") only to get in the water and want to play for hours. As usual, Willems does not disappoint.

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Waiting is Not Easy! by Mo Willems - We also love Elephant and Piggie. This silly friendship duo are like yin and yang. Gerald worries so Piggie doesn't have to. Gerald is careful. Piggie is not. Piggie can't help smiling. Gerald can. These two always discover small (and big) life truths together. In this book, Elephant learns that waiting... is usually worth it. 

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Once Upon an Alphabet by Oliver Jeffers -  This is the alphabet book to top all others. Truly. It's brilliant. Here's the preface: "If words make up the stories and letters make up the words, then stories are made up of letters. In this menagerie we have a story made of words, made FOR all the letters." A story for each letter, replete with words that start with that letter. The stories weave into each other. Characters from one letter's story appear in a neighboring letter's story. It's enchanting. Every story works. Because Jeffer's tales are unexpected, out of the box, and tied up with a clever twist. Great letter recognition for preschoolers, charming as a read-aloud, and slyly funny for older readers ready to explore the alphabet in a brand new way.

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The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers (2013) -  This is the book that introduced us to Oliver Jeffers, author of Once Upon an Alphabet (above). It made a number of 2013 book lists but I didn't find it until 2014. One word: Hilarious. Did you know crayons have feelings too? Poor Duncan just wants to color. But his crayons? They're done, finito, going on strike. Beige crayon is tired of playing second fiddle to brown crayon. Black is tired of only being used for outlining. Yellow and Orange aren't talking to each other because each thinks they are the true color of the sun. The dialogue is comical and witty. Fun to see crayons come alive in this engaging children's read.

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Mix it Up! by Hervé Tullet -  Did you like Press Here? I would describe this book as its sequel. Mix, splatter, make colors vanish. Anything is possible with a little paint and some imagination. You will giggle and marvel at this interactive journey that teaches children all about color. Two thumbs up for another dazzling Hervé Tullet book, powered by the imagination. 

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The Book with No Pictures by BJ Novak -  Okay. This might be my favorite. The book with absolutely no pictures. Just words. And the rule? The reader has to read every word on every page. No matter what. Even if it's ridiculous, like BLORK. or Bluuurf. Or a nonsense song about eating ants and having only one friend that's a monkey. Yep, that's the deal. B.J. Novak's extremely clever (and slightly irreverent) take on words was an instant hit our house. Totally irresistible. Be sure to sit down with some unsuspecting aunt, uncle, or grandparent. It's the best when the reader comes to it unaware. 

We gave the book to both grandpas for Christmas. Here's a video of my Dad reading it for the first time. Such a good sport. He had no idea what he was getting into. I laughed so hard. We all did.

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The Pilot and the Prince By Peter Sis -  This book tells the life of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, author of the beloved book, The Little Prince. I read The Little Prince years ago but am rediscovering it now with my boys as I read it aloud to them at bedtime. I like to include at least one biography each year, and this one's about an author. Antoine's life was full of adventure. Born in the early aviation era, he dreamed of becoming a pilot and eventually got a job delivering mail by plane. He flew over mountains and deserts, battled wind and storms, sometimes he even crashed. Peter Sis' art is unusual, fascinating, and detailed. Anyone with an adventurous heart will love learning about this real-life hero and how his travels informed his writing.

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100 Things that Make Me Happy by Amy Schwartz -  Straight out of a child's world comes Amy Schwartz's endearing list of 100 happy things. They are everyday things. Things every child can relate to. I loved the rhyming and bright illustrations. Wouldn't it be fun to make your own list of 100 things? I'm inspired.

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Hi-Koo! by Jon J Muth -  The poet in me adores this book. It was so very fun teaching my children the art of haiku form. Jon Muth has the lightest, most beautiful touch in his books. Travel through the year with him and his charming panda bear, Koo, by reading 26 original haikus, a handful for each of the four seasons. Two of my favorites: 

eating warm cookies
on a cold day
is easy

tiny lights
garden full of blinking lights

Charming, surprising, a book to cherish.

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Blue on Blue by Dianne White and Beth Krommes -  Sparse couplets paired with stunning artwork made this book a favorite with all my children. Step into the world of a farming family that lives near the sea. Experience a storm with them, watch it move in over the land. Hide under bedcovers, splash in puddles when the sun comes out, hang the laundry, watch the moon rise. This book is calming, lovely, and refreshingly provincial, with a clever take on color and transformations. White and Krommes magically turn a storm into a celebration. 

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The Seven Silly Eaters by Mary Ann Hoberman and Marla Frazee -   Peter only wants milk. Lucy only wants homemade lemonade. Jack? Only applesauce. With each new child, a new demand. Mrs. Peters peels, picks, squeezes, and kneads until she's weak in the knees. Seven picky mouths to feed!? Then her birthday rolls around and the children's early morning surprise changes everything. I love the messy house in this story, the endless children under foot, the weary mother. The last two pages are so delightful (notice the homemade gifts and crown), every mother will feel loved and celebrated.

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Singing Away the Dark by Caroline Woodward and Julie Morstad (2011) -  This classic picture book tells the story of one girl's walk from her lonely farmhouse through the woods and farmland, to catch her school bus. She has to leave early in the morning, before sunrise. She climbs over gates, past wild animals, head-first into a wickedly cold wind. How does she stay brave? She sings the dark away. A sweet story of courage. Children will love the rhyming text and simple illustrations.

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Plant a Kiss by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Peter H. Reynolds (2011) -  Little Miss planted a kiss... And what happened? It grew, and grew. It sparkled, it shined, and it needed to be shared. Some said it was too precious to give away; she'd never get it back. But Little Miss shared anyhow. And no surprise, her bowl never quite emptied. The glitter and sparkle of this book makes for enticing feel and texture. And teaches a great lesson about love and kindness.

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The Blizzard by John Rocco -   This book is based on John Rocco's childhood experience during the (now) infamous blizzard of 1978 that brought 53 inches of snow to his hometown in Rhode Island. From the excitement of that first snowflake to the huge sigh of relief when neighbors finally saw the snow plow coming, you journey with the Rocco family, who was housebound for days. During this time John found an opportunity to put the needs of others ahead of his own, to become a hero of sorts in his little community. Kids feel empowered reading this book. It helps them realize they can do big things. Definitely a fun read for snowy days and a mug of hot cocoa.

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Blackout by John Rocco -  This book, also by John Rocco, is about a summer blackout in a big city. As the power goes out, the TV goes off, daughter can't use her phone, son can't play video games, Mom can't use her laptop, and Dad can't finish cooking dinner... What's a family to do? I love this book because it teaches principles like resourcefulness and the need for quality time, away from devices or screens. The family, after power is restored, realizes, life has much more potential than they realized. They switch the lights off and pull out the board game again.

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The Library by Sarah Steward and David Smalls (2008)  Elizabeth Brown doesn't like to play with dolls, doesn't like to skate. But she does like to read books. Lots of them. All the time. As she grows older, her collection outgrows her house. Books everywhere. She loans them out like a library. But when there's no room in Elizabeth's house for Elizabeth, she realizes she has to do something. The way she solves this problem will warm any book lover's heart. (Eliza loved this book so much it inspired a painting she recently did for school which she titled, Every Good Book.)

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Sarah and Simon and No Red Paint by Edward Ardizonne (2011)  Originally published in 1965, this book was republished in 2011. A timeless story of two children, Sarah and Simon, who live with their parents in a big room called the Studio. Their father is a painter and they have very little money. Sarah and Simon make friends with a second-hand book shop owner, where they spend much of their time as father works on his masterpiece and tries to appease his wife that once it sells, they will have enough money. The children try to help, and the surprise ending, which ends up reconciling their family with an estranged uncle, is simply priceless. You will love discovering this tale of kindness and family bonds.

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The Girl Who Never Made Mistakes by Mark Pett and Gary Rubenstein (2011) -  Meet Beatrice Bottomwell: a nine-year-old girl who has never (not once!) made a mistake. She never mismatches her socks, never forgets her math homework, and ALWAYS wins the school talent show. Life is sailing along pretty well, until the unthinkable happens. She makes a mistake! This is such a great book for kids. To understand we can learn from our mistakes, it's okay to let go of imperfection, and there is so much life to experience if we aren't afraid of making... a mistake.

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A Time to Keep by Tasha Tudor (1996) -  Did you grow up with Tasha Tudor? I did. Remember her book of fairy tales? The Dolls' Christmas? (Sigh. I loved that book. Pored over it again and again.) Pumpkin Moonshine? If I had a boatload of money and time to spend gathering all her books no longer in print, I would. This one, however, is still in print! It's a month by month collection of family traditions and celebrations, full of beautiful scenes and ideas for making holidays meaningful. My girls adore this book. We're planning to adopt some of the traditions, like floating a birthday cake, an archery contest, advent wreath, handmade valentines in a family mailbox. Makes me long for an earlier time when things were simpler. Reminds me we can adopt some of that simplicity and homemade charm, even now.

And.... that's all folks! Watch for a post listing our favorite chapter books (for young readers) sometime in the spring. And maybe a post on what Mom's been reading. 

Did you have favorites this year? I'd love to hear about them.

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