* Reading for Kids *

My kids are pretty voracious readers. My son can pick up a book and be lost in it for hours.  My daughter is just finishing Grade 1 and is also reading some easy chapter books on her own.

Our kids did a lot of reading over the summer break, but that’s not the case for all children.  So, if you need a few books to ease your child back into reading before school starts, this might be the post for you.

I thought I’d share some of the books my son has loved over the past years.  Harry Potter and Percy Jackson are solid favourites and already pretty well known.  Here’s a few you might not have heard of:

Zac Power

This series by H.I. Larry is about a 12 year old boy and his older brother who are secret agents for a government agency.  The chapters are fairly short and easy to read.  Best for kids 8-10.

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Captain Awesome by Stan Kirby

My son received this for a birthday gift when he was 6 and it’s a fun series of books.  The Captain is 8 year old Eugene McGillicudy and he has adventures throughout his neighbourhood with a crazy cast of characters.  Easy to read and probably best for kids in Kindergarten to Grade 3.

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National Geographic Kids

Our family loves these books and pretty much all the National Geogrpahic books.  These are the books that we take to restaurants, leave in the car and bring along to appointments.  Lots of fun facts, great pictures and easy to read.  Also look for Myth Busters, Sticker Activity Books and more from this great organization.

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Ratburger by David Walliams

About 6 months ago, my son (aged 9) received Grandpa’s Great Escape by the same author and since then, he pretty much powered through all the books by David Walliams.  The writing is funny, the characters are unique and quirky and best of all, the kids laugh out loud when reading his books.

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The Circus Ship by Chris Van Dusen

This one was introduced to us by friends about 3 years ago and we still love it!  The illustrations alone are worth it.  The story rhymes and teaches us about friendship in the most fun way.

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Geronimo Stilton by Geronmio Stilton

If you haven’t read this series yet, I highly recommend it.  We started when my son was 5 or 6.  They are chapter books, but they have a lot of colourful illustrations and the type is done creatively in different colours and types.  Geronimo takes us around the world on adventures with his sister and cousin.   My son still loves these books and now my daughter (aged 7) has started reading them, too.

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House of Robots by James Patterson

You may know James Patterson from the crime novels, but he also writes books for kids.  This series is about a boy entering Grade 5 who lives with a house full of robots.  We just picked this one up and haven’t read it yet, but the reviews are great and it looks like a fun read.

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MasterMinds by Gordon Korman

Gordon Korman has written over 80 books!  This series is about a group of kids who think they live in the most boring town in the world.  Until….a friend disappears and the kids have to investigate what is really happening in their town.  Best for middle school age kids.  If they like this series, there are lots of others by Korman to choose from.

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Spy School and Spy Camp by Stuart Gibbs

These books are about Ben a middle school student who ends up in a school for spies.  Super fun series and my son can’t wait to read Evil Spy School next.

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These are just a few of the books on our shelf.   What did you kids read this summer?  Please let me know in the comments!

linking up with:  Sincerely, PaulaGood Random FunA Little Bit of EverythingMom Home GuideShelbee on the EdgeCurly Crafty MomBy BMG

Advent Calendar – DIY

I don’t often do a DIY, but that’s not to say that I don’t enjoy. Trust me when I say that I pin plenty of them from Pinterest.

So, when my kids asked if they could each have a separate advent calendar for Christmas I looked around.  From Pottery Barn to Michaels and everything in between.  Nothing looked quite right, had the right sized boxes or was what I wanted to spend.   So, I thought to myself, what would Martha do?  Well, she would make her own.  Wouldn’t she?

I perused Pinterest and got a few ideas, but the actual design was my own. I started with these little favour (or favor depending on your country) boxes which I bought at Michaels:

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When you put them together, they look like this:

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They are not what I would call sturdy little boxes, but I figured I could make them work.  With a 50% off coupon, I think the cost was around $10.

I searched around on Pinterest and found some creative people that love to share printables.  I found these numbers in Christmas colours that were a perfect match for my boxes and printed them at home on my colour printer:

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After cutting them out and using my new best friend:

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the boxes looked like this:

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I used the Mod Podge to paste the numbers on the front of the boxes and to give them a little more strength.

I then played around with the shape, the order of the numbers and realized that I wanted the calendar to be able to stand or balance on its own.  A little LOT more Mod Podge to stick them together and voila!

This is the final result:

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This whole project cost about $15 for the white boxes and Mod Podge.  The kids think it is great and I’m hoping it will last me a couple of years.  If it doesn’t, the good thing is it can go into the mixed recycling bin.

I think Santa will be proud of me and Martha might like it, too.

linking up with: The Jenny EvolutionThe Pin JunkieDesign Dining and DiapersCurly Crafty MomHappy HousieProvident Home Design

 

Sweet Dreams

The best part of my nightly routine happens long after the dishes are done and the laundry is folded. It happens after I’ve caught up on a little television and checked emails and after my teeth are brushed and pajamas are on.
When I’ve checked that the doors are locked and the lights are dimmed I take one last peek at my girls asleep in their beds.
If they are sound and sleeping I am finally able to check out and do the same.

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Weekend Time

This week, the Monday Listicles asks what do we do regularly on the weekend?  So, my sister and I thought we would do this list together and add a second list of what we would like to be doing on the weekend.

What we do regularly:

Her List:

  1. Laundry, laundry and more laundry
  2. Read the Sunday paper
  3. Something active with my girls (hike, bike, jump on trampoline, etc
  4. Stay in pj’s as long as possible!
  5. Order Pizza

My List:

  1. Hockey – watching a practice or game for my son
  2. Ordering in or going out to a restaurant
  3. Skating lessons with my daughter
  4. Drinking lots of coffee
  5. Going for a run

What we would really like to do on a weekend:

Her List:

  1. Plan, shop and prep all meals for the coming week
  2. Get a massage
  3. Have an entire day to myself
  4. Complete a DIY project
  5. Read a book

My List:

  1. Go shopping
  2. Get a mani/pedi
  3. Have an entire day (or weekend) to myself
  4. Have lunch out with friends
  5. Try skiing again

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Pinned & Tried – home

This is the home edition of Pinned & Tried.  As I have mentioned several times before in this blog, I love to pin!  Every night when the kids go to bed, I grab a iPad and do a few minutes hours of harmless pinning.

Months ago, I saw a pin of a farmhouse style of cabinet that was being used as linen storage in a bathroom.  I pinned it and immediately wanted something similar.  More pins would follow but I had yet to find my cabinet.  Here’s what I was looking for:

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I was scouring craigslist regularly obsessively, but could not find my cabinet.  There was a close call about 2 months ago, but I was too late.

So, what to my wondering eyes should appear last week, but a craigslist ad with my cabinet in my neighbourhood at a fantastic price!  I quickly made contact with the seller and then sent my husband off to measure it up and provide a deposit.  Within 24 short hours, it was mine!

With a little help from me, the neighbour and our friendly plumbers (who happened to be at the house), we got the beast cabinet up two flights of stairs and into the kids’ bathroom.

It is exactly what I wanted to fill a niche behind the door.  I’ve started filling it up, but now realize the towels look a little sad and I could use a few more accessories to make it a fun beachy style bathroom for the kids.

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But overall, I am really happy and this is one successful edition of Pinned & Tried – Home Edition!

linking up with: The Jenny EvolutionSuburbs MamaHome Coming

No Resolution Required

If I were a New Year’s Resolution kind of person, which I’m not, I would have both failed and succeeded all via our dinner this evening.

As a working single mom, I have relied on take out and convenience foods way more than I’m proud of over the past 3+ years. No time to plan, shop for and execute the healthy, nutritious meals I so wish I had been serving my girls. I also was guilty of sometimes doing things for my girls that they should have been doing for themselves because I deemed it quicker and less of a hassle if I did it myself.

This past weekend when one of them asked me for a glass of water I paused and said “2014! The Year Of Doing Things For Ourselves!”

I got raised eyebrows and a bit of a grumble and then she went and got herself a glass of water. Winner! So this afternoon on what was to be Taco Tuesday, my eldest (the one with the raised eyebrows) pulls out a library book she got today by some kid named Jack Witherspoon. Not just any book, a cookbook. And not written by just any kid, an amazing kid who survived leukemia and raises money for cancer research.

“Mom, can we make something out of this book tonight?”

There it was. The opportunity to nail both resolutions (if I had them). Home cooked meal and independence in one shot. I paused and glanced at the clock. 4:30 p.m. and it was dark and rainy. I didn’t want to go to the store but this is 2014 and I was going to get us all off on the right foot!

Off to the store we went with a list. By this time I’d realized that home cooked was going to have to do and that healthy was not on eldest daughter’s mind. Tonight’s choice, courtesy of Jack Witherspoon’s book, Fettuccine with cream, mushrooms, chicken and peas. But, hey, if it’s good enough for Jack, it’s good enough for us! And this is not a meal we have ever eaten together at home or anywhere else.

Back home, the girls chip in and are now fighting to help make dinner! One measures, one pours. One stirs, one tosses. Voila! In just 30 minutes we were dining on Jack’s Fettuccine. And it was pretty good. Okay, really good, if not a little higher in cream than I was planning on but…oh well! Mission accomplished. Eldest declares it awesome and stakes her claim on leftovers for tomorrow’s lunch.

Now I know there are moms tsk tsking me knowing full well that most kids are more likely to eat different foods when they take part in the preparation. I KNOW that, people! Please see the beginning of my post where I say I had really been too time-crunched to plan that far in advance.

But that is soooo 2013! Tonight my kids did for themselves AND me AND we had a home cooked meal. During dinner we flipped through Jack’s book, aptly called Twist It Up. We twisted it up today, thanks to him. His book was published just two years ago. I hope Jack is still healthy and whipping up more of his fabulous recipes. We’ve already picked tomorrow’s meal, Rockin’ Chili. No resolutions needed.

20140107-201459.jpgPlease know this photo does no justice to the meal. By the time I remembered to take a picture this was all that was left and it had been refrigerated for an hour or so. Presentation is everything.

linking up with:  The Jenny Evolution

Seriously?

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Rocker Gaming Chair
$99.97
SAVE $20
Valid October 04, 2013 — October 10, 2013

DESCRIPTION

• Equipped with Bluetooth and speakers system
• Folds for easy storage

This is an ad I copied from my local Toys R US flyer.  I saw this chair for sale  and I said, WTF ?   They are selling a “Gaming Chair” for kids?

I am not against video games.  I know they have a place in today’s world.  We have a Wii in our house and iPads.  The kids prefer the iPad to playing Wii, so it actually doesn’t get used that often.  But we don’t have a gaming chair, nor do we need one.

Over the past few years, reports have come out that, children are not playing and getting enough exercise.

Here’s what we know:

  • childhood obesity is on the rise
  • kids are more hooked on electronics than ever before
  • kids are not playing outside as much as they used to

And Toys R Us is selling a gaming chair?  Because the couch isn’t comfortable enough?

Seriously?

A local Vancouver company, Peekaboo Beans has started the Play Revolution. They are concerned that kids aren’t playing enough.  Just simply playing, with their imaginations, themselves and their friends.  For more about the Play Revolution, watch the video here.

We shouldn’t need reminders that kids should play.  And I don’t mean video games.

Seriously?  Toys R Us,  is a gaming chair really necessary in today’s world ?

The Tooth Fairy (and other myths I’ll miss)

My eldest doesn’t believe in the Tooth Fairy any more and I don’t know which one of us is more devastated.

Her Dad blew it for us. Two forgotten teeth at his house and she figures it out that the magic only happens at my house. So she questions me via text and email after tearfully discovering her molar still sitting on her nightstand. And I freeze.

My first instinct to make something up, cover for her dad’s poor memory and convince her the Tooth Fairy messes up sometimes. Because what’s next? Santa and the Easter Bunny blown out of the water? I can’t take it. I love being those characters and creating those moments for my kids. Believing is fun. Believing is special and magical. Creating that magic is special.

And we have a little sister to consider. I don’t want her to stop believing any earlier than she has to. Having something magical in that little head of hers is intoxicating. The excitement and the giddiness are feelings we so rarely have as adults. Why shouldn’t kids keep that innocence as long as they can?

The practical mom in me knows at the age of 10, she deserves to know the truth or at least have what she already suspects confirmed. She needs to know she can trust me to be honest with her about little things like the Tooth Fairy so that I’ll be honest with her when the big stuff starts coming up.

And so I’ll tell her today that, yes, I am the Tooth Fairy. I’ll tell her that one of the amazing things about being a kid is that you get to believe in magic and fairies. I’ll tell her that as a parent one of the best things is getting to inspire that belief and create the magic. I’ll tell her that hearing her shout out that the Tooth Fairy came and brought her two dollars is as much fun for me as it is for her finding that gift. I’ll enlist her help in keeping the magic alive for her sister for a little while longer.

With a wink and a smile just between us I’ll let her grow up a little bit today.

 

linking up with The Jenny Evolution

On the Ice

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It’s been about 5 months, maybe six that my son laced up his skates and hit the ice.  At that time, we were done. It had been a great season, but the previous six months felt long and it was time for a break.

Last night, we were back at the rink for his first practice of the season. You know what? I was excited to be back. It was great to feel the chill of the rink, to smell the stale air in the dressing room (well, maybe not so much), and to see the teammates and families again.

It is still summer outside, but it’s going to be a relief to be inside the cool rink waiting for the puck to drop!

 

linking up with The Jenny Evolution

Sunday Breakfast

I never used to enjoy breakfast when growing up.  Not sure why, but cold cereal just wasn’t my thing.  It wasn’t until I was in my late twenties that I rediscovered eggs, and from then on I was hooked on breakfast.

Before we had kids, my husband would make crepes for us on the weekend mornings.  We would fill them with yogurt and jam and devour them.  Years later we tried to get the kids to eat them, but they were lukewarm to the idea.

Enter:  pancakes!  I first used a mix (didn’t everybody?)  But one day when I didn’t have any mix, I decided to look up a recipe.  I didn’t realize it was so easy to make them from scratch.

Hello, Martha Stewart!

Since that fateful morning, I have always used Martha Stewart’s Basic Pancakes recipe.  It is simple and easy and everyone loves them.

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Here it is, direct from Martha’s website – enjoy!

INGREDIENTS

1 cup all-purpose flour, (spooned and leveled)

2 tablespoons sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup milk

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, or vegetable oil

1 large egg

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

Assorted toppings, such as butter, maple syrup, confectioners’ sugar, honey, jams, preserves, sweetened whipped cream, or chocolate syrup

DIRECTIONS

STEP 1

Preheat oven to 200 degrees; have a baking sheet or heatproof platter ready to keep cooked pancakes warm in the oven. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt; set aside

STEP 2

In a medium bowl, whisk together milk, butter (or oil), and egg. Add dry ingredients to milk mixture; whisk until just moistened (do not overmix; a few small lumps are fine).

STEP 3

Heat a large skillet (nonstick or cast-iron) or griddle over medium. Fold a sheet of paper towel in half, and moisten with oil; carefully rub skillet with oiled paper towel.

STEP 4

For each pancake, spoon 2 to 3 tablespoons of batter onto skillet, using the back of the spoon to spread batter into a round (you should be able to fit 2 to 3 in a large skillet).

STEP 5

Cook until surface of pancakes have some bubbles and a few have burst, 1 to 2 minutes. Flip carefully with a thin spatula, and cook until browned on the underside, 1 to 2 minutes more. Transfer to a baking sheet or platter; cover loosely with aluminum foil, and keep warm in oven. Continue with more oil and remaining batter. (You’ll have 12 to 15 pancakes.) Serve warm, with desired toppings.

SOURCE: recipe and picture from Martha Stewart, Everyday Food, September, 2006