The Evolution of a Bedtime Story

I have loved books for as long as I can remember.  My mom was the best to always take me to the library and she kept me fully stocked in the books I wanted to read.  I remember being so very excited to get my very own library card, even though it had to reside in the file at the library until I was older (after graduating high school, maybe?  It's a little fuzzy now).

Because of my own love affair with books, I desperately hoped my girls would love reading and books, and I did everything I could to encourage that love.  I read aloud to them when they were too little to understand the words--mostly magazine articles, but also chunks of To Kill a Mockingbird.  How's that for culture?

I put out books for the girls starting almost immediately, when they were far too young to know what to do with them.  I wanted them to see books lying around, to know what they were, and to hear the words and see the pictures they contained.  Naturally, we started with thick and chunky board books, soft fabric or plastic books, and a couple of these indestructible books, which A & M really loved around 18 months or so.

When the girls were just a few months old, I started read an actual "bedtime story" each night.  Even if they squawked and fussed through it, this short little routine was one of the last things I did before putting them in bed for the night.  At some point, I began reading a short little Baby Einstein book (Lullabies & Sweet Dreams), which had a nice little rhyming cadence...that I can still recite most of, for the record.  This book remained in our bedtime rotation, even once we added other books in, for at least two years.  I still try to pull it out every once in while, even though I am usually vetoed now.

I rejoiced when the girls finally reached a point where they would sit (relatively) still in my lap for a couple of stories.  I don't remember exactly how old they were at that point, but I remember thinking it was a pretty young age for them to be actually "listening".  (I am guessing a little more than a year or so?)  I was so excited to finally be able to get through a small stack of books at bedtime.  Though my mind was numbed at times by the basic, repetitive wording in most of the simple board books, I was glad to see my girls' interest growing.

We stuck with the simple books through about age 2 1/2, employing only a few more wordy titles here and there.  As soon as I felt it made sense, though, I started incorporating more and more books with actual pages, more text, and (gasp!) occasionally an actual plot.  I was relieved to be free from board book prison.  And to my surprise, as the length of the books we read increased, so did the girls' patience for the stories.  They became good little listeners, only rarely interrupting and always sitting still where they could see the pictures.

After age two, I began seeking out all manner of books that I enjoyed reading to the girls.  I hunted down childhood favorites, flipped through tons of books at the library, and made note of books I saw recommended online.  Some became new favorites of mine, while others struck the girls' fancy.  We had a few standbys in common, but often our favorites do not overlap.  (I may or may not have placed the ones I loathed reading aloud at the bottom of the pile occasionally.)

I love, love, love getting to explore new titles with my girls, and watching their comprehension grow by leaps and bounds.  Though they haven't shown any real interest in learning to read themselves yet, I feel sure that we have built a solid foundation that will hopefully help them become lifelong readers.

Recently, I have branched out in their bedtime stories once again, trying out the idea of chapter books.  Mackenzie is still enamored with the The Jesus Storybook Bible, which she requests every single night. The stories are not very long, but do have a sense of continuity from one story to the next, so I figured they might be ready for some of the more simple chapter books we could read a little from each night.  After watching the movie "Ramona & Beezus", which the girls loved, I picked up the book at the library.  I remember reading and re-reading Beverly Clearly when I was young, so I was excited to share her books with them.  A & M were so excited to see Ramona in book form, and to hear some of the same stories they'd seen in the movie, plus new ones.

"Reading" one of my childhood favorites

I probably overestimated their attention span a little, as the chapters turned out to be a little longer than is ideal at this point.  Still, they did listen to a full chapter on several occasions and we made it through a good chunk of the book.  A few weeks ago, I ordered The Children of Noisy Village, and its chapters a bit shorter.  The girls have liked it the nights we have read it, and I like the quaint, simple story lines.

As a new facet to our bedtime story routine, the girls now request to 'read' on their own for awhile after I tuck them into bed.  Mackenzie gets her Jesus Storybook and Addison usually requests her large Princess book, and they wind down by flipping through the pages of their familiar favorites.  I love that they have developed this habit, and I hope it's a sign of good things to come on the book front.

While we may not be ready for a Harry Potter read-a-long for quite some time, I recognize how far we have come with books in four years.  I am thankful for the love of literature I see growing in my girls, and I will continue to do everything I can to encourage it.

One day, girls, we will get to Harry Potter, and your minds will be BLOWN. 


Carry On, Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton {Review & Giveaway}

I don't remember exactly how I came to hear about Glennon Melton's blog, Momastery, but I know I spent a chunk of time one afternoon browsing through her writing.  A few things I read made me laugh out loud, others had me nodding in agreement, and still others caused my eyes to well up with tears.  While I don't read her blog regularly, Glennon stayed on my radar.  When I was asked about reviewing her new book, Carry On, Warrior, I quickly agreed.

I knew a bit of Glennon Melton's story from her blog--a "recovering everything", she is now a shameless "truth-teller" who doesn't hide behind a created image of herself.  She is passionate, dramatic, and honest, and her writing is in turn hilarious, sappy, and touching.

I found these same things to be true about Glennon as the author of Carry On, Warrior.  If you have read and enjoyed her blog, you'll love the book.  You will see some of the same material--even not being a regular reader, I recognized a few of her more popular posts.  There were also things I hadn't read, and some of those essays turned out to be my favorites.  If you don't know anything about Glennon Melton, you may very well enjoy the book all the more.  Reading the blog is in no way a prerequisite, is what I'm saying.

I confess that I find Glennon and the whole Momastery thing to be a little...well, much, for lack of a better term.  The same was true for the book at times.  Parts of it had me rolling my eyes at her flowery and grandiose writing.  I was a little put off by the entire chapter devoted to her sister's divorce.  I mean, I totally understand the closeness of a sister, but it was her divorce to experience, not Glennon's.  The description of a full year of crying, self-pity, and focus on Sister, of giving little to no attention to her husband and children--the prime example of all that is just too over-the-top about Glennon, in my opinion. 

On the flip side, however, there are essays like "Unwind" (about a married couple who forget to value one another) and "A Mountain I'm Willing to Die On" (about teaching our children by example that they are good, they are valued, and they are loved just as they are).  Those are examples of Glennon's serious writing at its best.  She really does seem very open, and is obviously willing to share her weaknesses and dirty secrets, because as she says, no one makes friends by sharing their strengths.  Glennon's writing about her addictions and recovery is gritty, moving, and real, but always with an undertone of humor.  I do love a lady who can laugh at herself.

In fact, my absolute favorite essays in Carry On, Warrior are the funny ones.  Glennon is at her best when she's milking the comedy from everyday life, in my opinion.  Essays like "Sucker--On Vacuuming", "Initiation" (which I had read on the blog, but remains one of my favorites), and "Transcendentalist" are ones I will mark to come back to when I need a laugh.  They are the ones I will read aloud to friends, and they are what makes me recommend this book to others who I know will appreciate the same things.

Are you a Momastery fan?  Interested in reading Carry On, Warrior?  (If so, be sure to keep reading!)


I am pleased to offer an opportunity for one reader to win a copy of Carry On, Warrior, courtesy of Scribner Publishing.  To enter, just leave a comment on this post.  If you're stumped for what to say, tell me the last time you vacuumed your floors (that's related to the essay I mention above, and the fact that I haaaate vacuuming!).  Or tell me if you've ever heard of Glennon Melton?  Perhaps her essay "Don't Carpe Diem"?

The giveaway will close this Sunday, April 28, at 10:00 p.m central time. 

I received a copy of this book for review via TLC Book Tours and the publisher.  All opinions expressed are entirely my own.  For more reviews, check out the full tour post.


The Clover House, by Henriette Lazaridis Power

Calliope Notaris Brown--or Callie Brown, as she is known in her everyday life--is a woman struggling to find her place in the world.  Born in the U.S. to a Greek mother and American father, Callie has always felt split between two worlds.  Making matters more difficult is her relationship with her mother, Clio, which has always been somewhat cold and distant.

When her uncle passes away, Callie learns she has inherited the contents of his home and she must travel to Patras, Greece to take possession of and sort through the memories of her uncle's life.  While there, Callie uncovers long-buried family secrets and struggles to understand her mother's difficult ways.  Callie must make decisions about all the relationships in her life--with her mother, her Greek family, and her fiance waiting back in Boston.

Set against the backdrop of the traditional Carnival, The Clover House is an interesting look at Greek culture.  Greece is not a country I know a lot about and is not a setting I have come across very often.  I enjoyed the descriptions of Greece--the people, the customs, and the history.

Also especially interesting were the retrospective sections, narrated in the third-person, from Clio's perspective during the Italian and German occupation in World War II.  These stories revealed a fascinating history, and were the most interesting parts of the plot, I thought.  The chapters from Clio's point of view drew me in and were definitely my favorite parts of the book.

While full of interesting history and providing a look at a setting I didn't know much about, the book overall fell a little flat for me.  I did not like Callie and couldn't really get past the ridiculously immature ways she behaved.  There was a little redemption in the end, thank goodness, and a bit of hope for her future.

Again, while I may not have loved this book, I did enjoy the rare setting and the insight into the Greek culture and traditions.  If you're interested in Greece/Carnival/WWII fiction, check this one out.

I received a copy of this book for review from the publisher and TLC Book Tours.  All opinions expressed are entirely my own.  For more information and reviews of this title, check out the full tour post.


Someday, Someday, Maybe by Lauren Graham

When I heard that Lauren Graham was writing a book, I immediately made note of the title to add to my (neverending) to-read list.  I have been an LG fan since her Gilmore Girls days, and I've enjoyed watching her on Parenthood as well.  The lady is amazingly talented, no doubt about that.

But can she write, too?

Judging by Graham's debut novel, Someday, Someday, Maybe, I would answer that question with a resounding YES. 

Someday, Someday, Maybe is the fictional tale of Franny Banks, an aspiring actress struggling to find her way in New York City.  Set in the mid-1990s, the story feels very authentic, and I can't help but think it must be inspired at least in part by some of Graham's own experiences.

Franny is a fun, realistic lead, and I loved how developed her character was throughout the book.  We see lots of different sides to Franny, and you quickly realize that she is far from perfect, but lovably so.  She is exactly the kind of girl readers want to see come out on top.  Basically, Franny is awesome, even when she is making boneheaded decisions, and she just might remind you of your best friend.  (Even if your best friend is not a struggling actress from 1995.)

When I realized the book was set in the mid-1990s, I wasn't sure how I would feel about that.  I'm not sure exactly why, but a setting from that era can sometimes be distracting to me and can feel even more dated than it should.  That was not the case in Someday, Someday, Maybe.  In fact, I found myself a little nostalgic at some of the details--like the decision of whether or not to leave home when waiting on a much-anticipated phone call or calling in to check messages on the answering machine. In the same vein, I found myself enjoying the show business storyline.  It was interesting and entertaining, and not at all pretentious, I thought.

Overall, I found Graham's first work of fiction to be pretty outstanding.  The narrative flows the way I imagine a conversation with Lauren Graham (or her alter-ego Lorelai Gilmore) would, and it is very obvious that she has a ton of natural writing talent.  I hope Lauren Graham will continue to write, and I will most definitely continue to read her work.

**I received an ARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley.  All thoughts and opinions expressed are entirely my own.

Someday, Someday, Maybe will be available on April 30.


The State of Affairs: March 2013

I finally got to meet Mandy and her girls in person!   We had a fantastic day in Nashville, and it was definitely one of the highlights of my month. 

We also went to a hockey game with friends, and J and I were able to have a night out with our Sunday School class.  It was nice to have dinner and a movie and lots of actual adult conversation.

It feels like things are beginning to pick up into the spring/summer busy-ness.  I needed a serious break from socializing and activities after the holiday season, and now I feel ready for spring fun.

Official Easter family picture--Hooray for the self-timer

Books read:  4 
The Dinner--Reviewed here.

Keeping Secrets in Seattle--Reviewed here.

Insurgent--Sequel to last month's Divergent, and the middle book of the series.  I have really enjoyed these two books, and I can't wait for the third to come out in the fall.  Again, if you were a fan of The Hunger Games, please read this one.

He's Gone--Pretty good; I have read the author's YA stuff, and I liked this book better.  (Review to come.)

I seem to have hit a reading rut during the second half of March.  I have read parts of at least three other books, but I just wasn't loving any of them.  It's getting better, though, and I'm about to pick up a just-for-fun YA book...always a cure for my reading slump!

LJ was home for Easter weekend!

We got new carpet!  Three years after moving in, we were finally able to replace the hideous light green carpet in the bedrooms.  It feels like a new house back there, no kidding.

As part of their birthday present, Addison & Mackenzie got new twin beds, which were delivered the day the carpet was installed.  They came home to an all-new room, and they are loving it.  (Pictures to come...eventually!)

We hosted Easter dinner at our house this year, having both my family and Jeremy's here.  It was very, very nice to be home and have everyone in one place.  Plus, they all brought food, so we pretty much only did the ham.  : )

A & M were a little sick at the beginning of the month, which is notable mostly because it is the only time they have been sick this fall/winter (knock on wood and all that superstitious jazz, of course).  It's been a good year somehow, even with the flu and stomach virus raging around us.

The running and yoga are still happening.  And of course, there's that 5k coming up in a month...still can't believe we're doing that (can you, Kelly??).  After that, I plan to run an actual 5k, with no water, mud, or foam involved.  It won't be fast, but if I can run it all I will be happy. 


And then they were four

Today, my sweet girls turned FOUR.  J and I were both able to arrange to be off work and spend the day with them.  The morning started with a pile of balloons in their bedroom.  Addison woke up while I was in the shower and came into the bathroom saying, "Mama, I found something in my room!  You have to come see!"

We took them to school, then returned a couple of hours later with pizza and cake for their "school birthday party".  It was so fun to watch them interact with their little friends in that environment!  They left school with us after lunch and went home to take a nap.  We spent the afternoon just hanging out, and A & M opened their gift from us (a very fancy "princess" dress).  Later, we went to my mom's for dinner...and cake, of course.  The girls were surprised again with a pinata, which they had been talking about since a party we attended last summer. 

I'd say it was a pretty good birthday for Addison & Mackenzie....and J and I certainly enjoyed it as well!  My girlies are growing so fast, but it just gets better all the time.

(On top of all that fun, J starts a new position at work tomorrow, and we couldn't be more excited about it.  We are proud of you, Jeremy!!)