Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Juvenile Pile: Heartfelt and Humorous

This week I am sharing a mix of library books and books we own. We're continuing to read a lot of picture books this summer. Here are some of them.

Vegetables in Underwear by Jared Chapman

Perfect for ages 2-4, this book is a showcase of underwear...on vegetables. It's colorful and simple, and I'm sure it's meant to be read by families starting out on the potty training road. The best part is when the broccoli makes a mistake in saying that babies wear underwear. It's cute and fun, and it was a very easy read for Christopher.

3 Stars

The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein

Sometimes you just need to read a classic. I loved listening to Christopher read this book - one of my all-time favorites. My sister bought it for him for his baby shower, so he got to read her inscription as well. This book is the perfect metaphor for parenthood. After reading it, I asked him when the tree was happy. He got it perfectly right: when she's doing things for the boy, when she's with the boy, and when the boy spends time with her. I think it could also be an example of The Five Languages of Love.

5 Stars

Have You Seen Elephant? by David Barrow

Christopher did a great job reading this book even though it's printed in cursive. A little boy is playing hide and seek with an elephant. The elephant says he's really good at the game, and the boy does have trouble finding him, but the reader doesn't. Christopher didn't really find this book amusing. I think he's too old. I could just hear 3 year-old Christopher laughing at this book as I imagined reading it with him at a younger age. The illustrations are gorgeous water colors. I really liked it.

4 Stars

My Father Knows the Names of Things by Jane Yolen

I bought this book for Jim for Father's Day when Christopher was a baby I think. We've read it many times over the years, and now finally Christopher was able to read it to me. It's a poetic story about a boy and his father and all the things his father teaches him. It's simple and sweet, and the illustrations are very whimsical and adorable.

4 Stars

In the Tree House by Andrew Larsen

I read this book, mostly to myself because Christopher was picking out books to read. It's a story about a boy whose older brother no longer has time to play with him in their tree house. He reminisces about them building the tree house with their father. Then one night the power goes out in the neighborhood, and his brother has time for him again. It's sad but also wonderful.

4 Stars

Spring Is Here (Bear and Mole) by Will Hillenbrand

I bought this book for Christopher for Easter when he was 2 years old, so it's another book that we've read a bunch, and now he got to read it on his own. Mole tries to wake Bear up all day long, but he just snores and snores. I remember little Christopher doing the snoring noises over the years. In the end, when Bear finally wakes up, it's Mole who's snoring, exhausted after his busy day of making Bear breakfast. It's funny and sentimental, a great read for ages 3-6.

4 Stars

What books are wrapping up your kids' summer?

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Juvenile Pile: Tales of Adventure

We've picked up the extra August reading challenge sheet from the library, but it requires another 6 hours of reading, and we're only 2 hours in. I don't know that Christopher will finish before the end of the summer, but at least he's still reading. I've been encouraging him to read picture books with more words because he keeps saying "no" to books right away if they have too much prose. I've reminded him that when school starts again, he'll be expected to read chapter books again. Hopefully his second grade teacher can push him to challenge himself a little more.

Here are some of the books we've been reading lately.

Albert's Almost Amazing Adventure by Marty Kelley

You may remember that I reviewed this book for Cybils back in December. I had forgotten about it, so I was excited to have Christopher reading it to me this time. It has just great humor, and I love the alternating black and white and color pictures based on the context of the story. Albert tries to tell his friends about his trip to Maine, and they keep jumping in with guesses of what happened. The fantasy is much better than the reality, until the end.

5 Stars

Ralph Tells a Story by Abby Hanlon

I read this book to Christopher, and we both enjoyed it. Ralph can never think of anything to write about in school. His teacher tells him that stories are everywhere. Finally, he remembers a time when an inch worm crawled on his knee at the park. With the help of his classmates, Ralph finds his story.

4 Stars

Jabari Jumps by Gaia Cornwall

Christopher read the first half of this book, and then I finished it. It's about a little boy who wants to jump off the diving board, but he's a little afraid. I love the everyday adventure of this story. And I loved that it's a book about a child of color in a normal situation. Everyone can relate to this book. The suspense is perfect, the father is encouraging, the end is satisfying. Anyone who's been afraid of something, but faced that fear, will enjoy this book.

5 Stars

Mr. Duck Means Business by Tammi Sauer

All Mr. Duck wants is some peace and quiet in his pond, but other animals keep coming for a swim. Mr. Duck puts up a sign telling everyone to stay away, but then he realizes he doesn't need quiet all the time. Oh, how I can relate to this book! Christopher has categorized people as "loud" or "quiet." He knows I'm a quiet person, and he and Jim are loud people. I think those are great kid terms for introvert and extravert.

4 Stars

The Book of Mistakes by Corinna Luyken

We all LOVED this book! We read it many times. On each page a drawing is shown. Sometimes there are mistakes sometimes not. It illustrates that everyone makes mistakes, but that mistakes in drawings can be changed into other things. The picture grows and grows throughout the book, and the first mistakes become so small, you can handle see them. What a good lesson for everyone. The prose is short, perfect for Christopher to read, because it's mostly about the pictures.

5 Stars

What have your children been reading lately?

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Great Reads from July 2017

I finally caught on my reviews over on Opinionated Book Lover. I reviewed 16 books between June 16th and July 15th, but today I'm only sharing the 4-star and 5-star books. There were 5 "great" books that I think you should read, and they all happen to be YA. Click on the book title to read my full review.

What I Lost by Alexandra Ballard

What sixteen-year-old Elizabeth has lost so far: forty pounds, four jean sizes, a boyfriend, and her peace of mind. As a result, she’s finally a size zero. She’s also the newest resident at Wallingfield, a treatment center for girls like her—girls with eating disorders.

This book was so well done. I loved being inside Elizabeth's head and truly understanding her illness.

4 Stars

The Possible by Tara Altebrando

What if…a teenage girl could move objects with her mind? What if…someone turns up at her door asking questions she doesn’t want to answer? Kaylee lives a normal life, and almost never thinks of her birth mother, Crystal. But the woman at the front door is producing a podcast about Crystal that is about to blow Kaylee’s forgotten past wide open.

This book kept me guessing. I couldn't put it down.

4 Stars

The Names They Gave Us by Emery Lord

Everything is going right for Lucy Hansson, until her mom’s cancer reappears. Just like that, Lucy breaks with all the constants in her life...even her longtime summer church camp job. Instead, Lucy lands at a camp for kids who have been through tough times.

I love camp stories. Lucy becomes friends with a group of other junior counselors. It's a touching story with a sweet romance.

4 Stars

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

This book is powerful. It's a must-read for everyone. It will make you feel so many emotions. It's very well done.

5 Stars

The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli

Seventeen-year-old Molly Peskin-Suso knows all about unrequited love—she’s lived through it twenty-six times. She crushes hard and crushes often, but always in secret. Because no matter how many times her twin sister, Cassie, tells her to woman up, Molly can’t stomach the idea of rejection. So she’s careful. Fat girls always have to be careful.

This book! It's just about the most perfect contemporary romance - two great love stories, amazing parents, twin drama. I loved it.

5 Stars

What great books have you read recently?

Today's post will be linked up with Modern Mrs. Darcy for her Quick Lit series.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Kid Lit: Benji and the 24 Pound Banana Squash

I received this book for free from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. 

Published on August 1, 2017.

Goodreads Summary:
With all his might Benji puts some seeds into the earth. Eagerly he follows the progress of growing. He lays in the sun beside his banana squash. He smells it, touches it, and puts sticks in the ground to measure how big it gets. A simple story that opens up children's eyes to one of nature's smallest and at the same time biggest wonders.

My Thoughts:
In this story Benji is excited to grow a banana squash from the seeds he saved last fall. He's determined to grow the largest squash ever, but he doesn't realize that it will take many months for the plant to grow. Together with his mom, he plants the seeds and checks every day to see the progress. He's excitement when the plant sprouts is infectious. He meticulously measures the squash when it begins to grow. He wants to keep it forever and ever, but his dad takes a picture and then cooks up the squash for the family to enjoy.

This book is super cute. There are a lot of life cycle books for pumpkins, but this one is original being that it's about a squash. Also, no other book is told with quite as much excitement. Kids, ages 4-8, will enjoy watching the plant and squash grow right along side Benji. Likely, they will want to grow their own squash or similar plant.

My Rating: 4 Stars

Thursday, August 10, 2017

My First Two Months on Isagenix

Since March I hadn't been eating as well as I was eating while doing Whole30 (or mostly Whole30) for about six months, and I had gained back more weight than I was happy about. And in general I was still feeling really run down, energy-wise. The supposed energy boost is one of the main things that attracted me to do Whole30 in the first place last fall, but even after months eating that way, I still felt tired a lot of the time. I even went to the doctor to get some blood work done in October, and it didn't reveal anything.

Over the past couple years I have been listening to my friend Beth talk about how awful she felt years ago before she starting using Isagenix products, and then how wonderful she feels now. In May I was feeling like I'd tried everything else, including eating the most healthy way possible while doing Whole30, so I decided that I had nothing to lose, and I signed up for Isagenix during one of their promotional periods when getting a wholesale account was free (instead of the normal $29 annual fee).

My Initial Order

Beth recommended that I start with the 30 Day Starter Pack, which provides general nutrition for a month. It includes a variety of products to get you started, and then you can decide which products you like and what you want to keep doing longer term.

I had some concerns because I am such a picky eater. I don't like chocolate, and a lot of their products are flavored as chocolate. But I was able to make it work with just using vanilla and strawberry flavored items in the 30 Day System. It comes with the following:

  • 4 packages of shake mixes - each 14 servings (I choose 2 vanilla, 2 strawberry)
  • 1 Ionix Supreme - super food powder to help with stress (this only comes in 1 flavor)
  • 1 bottle Natural Accelerator pills
  • 1 bottle IsaFlush pills 
  • 2 Cleanse for Life powder canisters (more about this later)
  • 1 bottle "Snacks" (I choose vanilla)
I also ordered some vitamins because I was really feeling like my body didn't have the nutrients it needed to function. Even the most healthy food doesn't always have the vitamins our bodies need because our soil is so deprived.

The Program

How Isagenix works is you have 6 "shake days" per week and 1 "cleanse day". They recommend that you start with at least two shake days before attempting a cleanse. The basic Isagenix schedule is fairly simple to follow, but I still sometimes have to reference it on cleanse days.

Shake Days

Breakfast - Shake
Morning Snack - Natural Accelerator, 100 calories of protein along with some veggies
Lunch - normal meal aka "fork food"
Afternoon Snack - Natural Accelerator, 100 calories of protein along with some veggies
Dinner - Shake
Bedtime - 1 IsaFlush pill (for bowel regularity)

Cleanse Days

Four times throughout the day you drink the Cleanse for Life liquid, which tastes horrible. It's the worst part of this whole lifestyle. Then in between those, three times a day, you have 2 "snack" tablets. They're nutrient packed wafers that aren't too back and do surprisingly curb your hunger.

My First Month's Experience

I almost threw up the first day because the milk taste of the vanilla shake stayed with me all morning, and I really didn't like it. This was partly my fault because I didn't put any ice in it when I mixed it up, and it tasted like warm, melted milk shake. I had strawberry that first evening, and it was so delicious. Beth recommended that I mix the two together (one scoop of each), and then it mostly tastes like strawberry, so I did that a lot too. Although after my first cleanse day, that vanilla shake tasted amazing. 

I used a lot of the recipes I had found during Whole30 to cook healthy meals for myself when I started using this program. Jim had decided to eat low carb again around the same time, so that worked well for us. And while this program allows you to eat "normal" meals, I didn't want to keep eating junk. 

The meal prep is much more management with Isagenix than with Whole30 because I only have to have one full meal and then two snacks per day. It was a bit of an adjustment to buy that much less food and to plan so few meals. You can swap lunch and dinner, which I do quite often, so that your fork food is at night. I normally cook a couple of dinners per week and then have left overs for lunch. Or if I know I'm going out to dinner - for book club or whatever - then I have a shake for lunch that day.

The first few weeks I was really hungry all the time, and after one not-so-nice episode where I completely lost it on Jim because he forgot to cook his assigned dinner one night (I get seriously hangry, people), I had to adjust the amount of protein calories in my snacks. Since then I have been having about 150 calories of protein, and it's working MUCH better.

The biggest surprise was how much the cleanse days have helped with my energy. I have skipped cleansing twice (going two weeks instead of one week in between cleanse days), and I noticed that when I haven't done my cleanse I feel super tired again. I don't really subscribe to the idea of "toxins" building up in my body, but they also say the cleanse day is good for resetting your metabolism, and I think there must be some truth in that. 

The Results

I was pretty skeptical about this whole thing, but I do feel like my energy is better than it was before. I wake up most mornings feeling like I am ready to face the day - unless I stayed up too late the night before or drank alcohol. I have given up caffeine again without a problem. And I don't feel like I've been saying, "I'm so tired" when Jim asks me how I'm feeling in the evenings.

And, added bonus, I've lost 12 pounds now in two months. Nine pounds in the first month. And also a lot of inches based on a variety of measurements (weight, bust, thigh, arm, etc.). My clothes are fitting better, which is always good.

My Second Month's Experience

I didn't feel like 30 days was a sufficient time period to really determine whether this system was working, so I placed a second order. I stopped the vitamins because they were pretty expensive, and I didn't know that they were really helping any more than the shakes. And I also didn't order the IsaFlush pills again, and actually I stopped taking them after the first 2 weeks because I have the opposite problem, so I've added back in fiber pills (Citrucel).

I haven't been pleased with the amount of added sugar (fructose) in all of the products, so I ordered two packs of the dairy free shakes the second month because they have only 7 grams of sugar vs. the 11 grams in the dairy shakes. I usually have one of each type per day. The dairy free come in Vanilla Chai and Mixed Berry, which are both super tasty. Although they don't mix as well just by shaking with water and ice, and I'm too lazy to use a blender. But I've gotten used it now, and I like the Mixed Berry dairy free the best now.

I've been a little less stringent about the fork foods I'm eating. Allowing myself more alcohol, pizza occasionally, etc. Also, if I'm extra hungry, then I add in a third snack some days - usually before or after dinner. I am still losing some weight and about the same amount of inches each month, so I am feeling good about that. I need to find a good balance between being healthy with my eating and also being reasonable, so I don't want to binge on junk periodically.

Long Term Plan

Jim keeps asking me if I am going to continue eating this way forever. The answer is that I don't know. Probably not, but for now it's working for me, and I'm feeling pretty great. I placed my third order last week (that's the picture above). We'll see how things go. I think I will probably keep this up for another couple of months, and then maybe I'll try just one shake a day (breakfast) and see if that helps me feel goof longer term. We'll see. 

Have you ever tried Isagenix? Do you have any questions? Sorry this post was crazy long. 

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Juvenile Pile: Independent Reads

We were able to get all of the hours in before 7/29, so Christopher got his second library reading program reward. This time he selected a free Milwaukee Wave (soccer) ticket.

Here are some of the books he read on his own.

Hammerhead vs. Bull Shark (Who Would Win?) by Jerry Pallotta

Christopher was so excited to see this new addition to the Who Would Win series. This time though he read it himself, and he didn't have patience for all of the facts about the sharks. He only wanted to read the fight. As usual, we predicted who we thought would win. He chose the bull shark, and I chose the hammerhead. It was an excited fight, but I won't tell you who won. If you're kids are into animals at all, I think they'll love this series. It's perfect for ages 5-10.

5 Stars

Adventures in Cartooning: How to Turn Your Doodles Into Comics by James Sturm, Andrew Arnold, & Alexis Frederick-Frost

We didn't read this whole book, but it's a really cool concept. It's a comic book story, but it also explains how to draw comic books. I was enjoying it, but Christopher found it to be too long. We'll stick with the "junior" series for now.

4 Stars

Hocus Focus by James Sturm, Alexis Frederick-Frost, & Andrew Arnold

Christopher actually laughed out loud at this book. And he kept the pictures hidden from me, so I couldn't look ahead. In this story, the knight is trying to learn magic from a wizard. He's frustrated that it's taking so long, so he tries his own potion and spell. Things go horribly wrong, but in a very funny way. This book is another great simple comic book story. We loved it.

5 Stars

I Don't Like Koala by Sean Ferrell

I did not like this book. Christopher felt bad for the Koala before we even read it, so that was good I think. In this story a little boy is afraid of his stuffed koala, but for some reason, his parents keep insisting he take it everywhere and sleep with it every night. That rubbed me the wrong way. Why were they doing that? It has an OK ending, but still, I just didn't care for this book. And Christopher wasn't a huge fan either.

2 Stars

My Cat, The Silliest Cat in the World by Gilles Bachelet

Christopher read this whole book without commenting on the obvious element of humor in the book. The "cat" being described is actually an elephant. It's amusing, and he noticed. I'm not sure why he didn't say anything. This book had the perfect amount of words for him to read it aloud without complaint. We enjoyed this one.

4 Stars

What new books have been read in your house this week?

Monday, August 7, 2017

Kid Lit: Little Tails in Prehistory

I received this book for free from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. 

Little Tails in Prehistory by Frédéric Brrémaud

Published on July 11, 2017.

Goodreads Summary:
Chipper and Squizzo are a precocious puppy and squirrel who love to explore new and exciting environments, flying their cardboard box airplane to wondrous worlds full of fascinating animals and creatures. In each volume of this fun, educational series, they tour a different location, encountering the real-world animals found there in beautiful illustration and fun cartoon strip antics. 

This exciting volume sees our adorable nature guides traveling back in time (in their cardboard time machine) to view the dinosaurs up close!

My Thoughts:
A puppy and a squirrel travel back in time in their flying, cardboard time machine. They visit the prehistoric ages - from the time of the dinosaurs to the dawn of man. This book is written in comic book style, but it's also packed with information about the creatures that inhabited the Earth before modern human beings.

It's an interesting combination of fiction and non-fiction perfect for children ages 5-9. The timelines are intertwined, so don't expect this to be a historically accurate account of prehistory, but for kids interested in graphic novel style writing and prehistoric animals, it's a pretty good read.

Because the book spans beyond the dinosaur age, there were many animals that I didn't recognize. And always with this type of book, there is a reference section at the end which gives more facts about the animals these characters encounter during their journey. 

My Rating: 3 Stars

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Juvenile Pile: Books with a Message

Books are a great way to start a conversation with a child about an important topic. We read 4 books recently that I intentionally got out of the library, so I could talk with Christopher about some of his behaviors and also some things about the world I want him to know about. We'll start with the most significant one.

Christopher has been watching some Disney shows on Netflix that are meant for kids much older than he is. They're relatively harmless, but it got me thinking. I don't want him to hear about sex from a TV show. We've already talked about where babies come from, but I hadn't really addresses the subject of sex. Sperm and eggs are fairly easy to talk about since it's science. But penises and vaginas are a little trickier. So, being the reader that I am, I turned to a book.

I got a couple of books out of the library intended to just look through them myself and have a book ready to go when he started asking questions. But then one of the books was really age appropriate, and I decided to ask him if he'd heard the word "sex" before. He said he hadn't. But being my son, ever inquisitive, he wouldn't just let it go. So I showed him the book and said we'd read it together. And so we did. And it wasn't hard at all.

I really want to keep the lines of communication open with Christopher. I don't want him to feel weird talking to me about his body. And I don't want it to be weird to share truths with him. I am all about being honest and open and giving him the information he needs before he's seeking it out from other sources.

What's the Big Secret?: Talking about Sex with Girls and Boys by Laurene Krasny Brown

This book is a bit dated. There were some comments about gender stereotypes that I skipped over as we read it, but in general it was a great overview of sex and reproduction. It's suitable for ages 6-9: pre-pubescent children. It covers the following: physical differences between boys and girls, touching, making a baby (sex, sperm, eggs, etc.), labor, delivery, and puberty. It was a great resource.

4 Stars

Those Shoes by Maribeth Boelts

I've tried to talk with Christopher about how lucky he be white, to be male, to have parents who love him and can support him. This book helped illustrate that not all kids have money for the things they need and want. Jeremy really wants a certain pair of shoes, but his grandmother can't afford them. Jeremy tries hard to make it happen, but in the end, it just doesn't work out. It was sad but wonderful to read.

5 Stars

Mr. Particular: The World’s Choosiest Champion! by Jason Kirschner

Mr. Particular is very picky, about everything. I thought this book would just be about eating, which is why I borrowed it from the library for Christopher. But the boy in this story is particular about the way he plays and everything. It's a comic book, super hero style story. And it's really cute. The boy's friends don't want to play with him anymore because of how picky he is, but when he learns to be flexible, they're happy to welcome him back.

4 Stars

Ordinary Mary's Extraordinary Deed by Emily Pearson

Mary is an ordinary girl, but she does something kind for a neighbor. She leaves cartons of blueberries on the porch, and the neighbor makes muffins, which she shares with 5 other people. Those 5 people do kind things for other people and the ripple of kindness spreads across the world. It's a great lesson in random acts of kindness and exponential growth. It was a little confusing because not all of the people's connections are that clearly explained, but we enjoyed it anyway.

4 Stars

What has your family been reading this summer?