Wednesday, December 5, 2012

A Schedule, Circle Time, and Starting Preschool

My goal this year was to do some kind of intentional learning every day with Emery. I wanted to keep it short and sweet since she is still little and has a short attention span and I didn't want to burn her out before more rigid homeschooling starts, but I wanted to get her in the learning mindset. Playing is extremely important and a part of learning at her age so that's what I really want her doing most of the time, but I also don't think she's too young to start memory work, reading poems, exploring art, reading short stories with me, practicing tracing, printing, counting, and other skills.

More importantly I really wanted to stick to a schedule everyday, or as often as possible, because we all do so much better when we know what the day's activities will be in advance. I've noticed that everyone seems to have a better attitude, we stay busy and focused, and everything just feels more productive throughout the day. More gets done, yes! Obviously things change, schedules aren't perfect, Declan decides not to sleep much, we all get sick, something comes up, and then it gets scrapped all together, but such is life with kids. And, admittedly, we haven't been doing this for very long yet so we'll see if things change in the future.

Another life changing addition I recently added to the schedule is daily (or at least almost daily) time outdoors. This is really wonderful! Of course we live in Minnesota so this isn't always possible, but for the most part we can dress weather appropriate (even if it means covering every inch except our eye-balls!) and head outside for at least a little bit everyday. And it's such a great way to burn off some extra toddler energy, collect fun things, explore, get dirty, learn about the weather and nature first-hand, and just have fun for a little while. Once the weather gets nicer I'm hoping to do circle time outside and spend more time exploring nature and the world God created.

Here's what our day usually looks like:

7:00-8 - Get up, dressed, beds made, laundry put away, hair done, etc.
8:30-9:30 - Breakfast + clean-up + play for a bit
9:30 - Declan takes a nap
9:30-10:15/30 - Circle Time
10:30-12:00 - Snack, pre-planned open-ended activity
12:00-1:00 - Lunch time
1:30-2:30/3 - Em has quiet time in her room with a quiet time bin and Declan naps
3:00-3:30 - Em goes outside to play
2:30-5:30 - Play with daddy, play, read, help with dinner, chores, etc.
5:30-6:30 - Dinner
6:30 - Declan goes to bed
7:00-7:30 - Wind-down time with Em (read books in bed, jammies on, brush teeth, sing songs, pray)
7:30/8 - Em goes to bed

What Circle Time looks like:

I just started calling it Circle Time because the place where we actually do the "Circle Time" is on the circle pattern in the middle of our living room rug. I wanted to stick to the same place everyday, so this is it. We sit down here together and get started.

Our Circle Time spot
1. Read a chapter in Big Truths for Little Kids (or one of the books below) and pray together.
2. Go over our catechisms, recite and sing them together (this and this are excellent).
3. Read a couple of poems or look at (or listen to) a piece of art. Discuss.
4. Review scripture memory verse.
5. Practice manners and character building with role playing.
6. Look at our calendar, move the card to today's date and talk about the date, day, how many days until certain events, etc.
7. Take a look outside and discuss the weather.
8. Review our letter and number of the week (we just use basic flash cards and keep the number and letter of the week in a pocket of our calendar).
9. Occasionally we practice printing our letters and review the ones we've already learned in our wipe-clean books. Or we'll have fun making letters with a container of toothpicks.
10. Sometimes we play a "fill the bag" game, where I have Em walk around the house filling a bag with things that are round, square, a certain color, find 5 things, 7 things, things that start with "A", etc.
11. Sing a few simple silly songs.

Some books/CD's we've read during circle time that I'd highly suggest:

-God's Wisdom for Little Girls. They also have one for boys here.
-Jesus Storybook Bible
-God's Names
-The Westminster Shorter Catechism Songs Don't even hesitate, just buy these. They are an excellent way to help memorize catechisms (both you and the kids!). We've listened to these since Emery was just born and she can sing most of them. So wonderful, I would like to personally thank Holly Dutton for putting these to song!
-The Prince's Poison Cup
-The Priest with Dirty Clothes
-Manners Can be Fun
-How to Behave and Why
-A Child's Garden of Verses
-Poems and Prayers for the Very Young (I remember having this as a little girl)
-The Big Golden Book of Poetry (No, we didn't buy it for $80+ on Amazon. Found it at a thrift store for $0.99!)
-Prayers for Children
-My Little Golden Book About God
-Arch Books I had many of these when I was little and we've grown quite a large collection of them from thrift stores.
-The Llama Who Had No Pajama (This is Emery's favorite poetry book)

Books/Other we plan to add to Circle Time:

-The Art Book for Children
-Vivaldi's Ring of Mystery, Mr. Bach Lives Upstairs, etc. (CD's)
-My ABC Bible Verses
-The Berenstain Bears' Big Book of Science and Nature
-The Church History ABC's
-Nature Friend Magazine
-God's Promises
-The Donkey Who Carried a King
-The Squire and the Scroll
-God's Little Princess
-The Princess Kiss

We don't necessarily do everything listed here at each circle time, but we stick with the most important things (i.e. prayer, scripture memory, catechisms, manners) then add some other things in. After that we move into doing some kind of open-ended activity. This takes some planning (and I'm still working on it), but I try to have the activity pre-planned and ready for the day. Then I don't have to dig around searching for the materials needed because they're all ready to go for the day. I am then able to get a few things done around the house while she plays and Declan's still napping.

Examples of open-ended activities include:

-Play dough
-Sensory bins (beans, rice, water beads, endless possibilities) - These are the best, cheapest, and Em's favorite activities!
-A craft
-Felt boards
-Activity book
-Quiet time bin
-Beading (either with real beads and yarn/string or these)
-Kumon books (not quite open-ended, but fun and great learning activity nonetheless)
-Fun with a tub of water in the kitchen
-Other random creations (we consult with Pinterest often) :)
-Here's some Pinterest ideas: crafts, activities, Holiday themed

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Catching up, and what we've been up to...

Wow, these last couple months have seemed like a whirlwind! Obviously I haven't blogged for quite some time because things have just been a little busy around here. Here's a little recap:

First, we moved out of our cute little home in Saint Paul. This was the home that Dustin and I first looked at on our wedding day then moved into a month after we were married. This is where we labored for 6 hours with Emery and nearly had her right in the kitchen. This home is where I gave birth to Declan. We had our first Christmas together as a married couple here, camped out in the backyard, and planted our first successful garden. This was a good house. It was tiny, I'm talking 700-800 square feet, with two bedrooms (8X8 and 8X9) barely large enough to fit our full size bed, a crib, toddler bed, a couple dressers, and book shelf, plus a cozy living room and kitchen that barely fit our tiny table, with tiny closets, and no garage. It wasn't big, but it was our home. Full of memories. I'll definitely miss our huge backyard. It was the only huge thing about that house.

Our (old) big backyard: best play area, picture place, and best place to get dirty.
But moving out means that we also moved in. Moved in to a much bigger home! One with bedrooms for each of the kids, two living room spaces, a garage, and a dining room big enough to fit Dustin's grandparents large wooden table! We are so thankful for the space, especially during these winter months, when everyone can get a bit cramped up indoors during the cold and snowy days.

So much more room to play!
And be silly, of course!
Moving with kids was not an easy task, however. It meant one of us (Dustin or I) was moving stuff while the other was watching the kids, making food, getting naps going, cleaning after kids, playing, etc. So it took a lot more work, a lot more patience, a lot more time, and a lot more help from others. Thank you family and friends!

In the midst of the moving process we were presented with a wonderful gift from my sister. She was unable to use some tickets she had purchased for Florida (plus a hotel stay at a wonderful hotel with lots of water and kids activities!) so she gave them to us and we left right then and there for a week to Florida! My parents gave me a birthday present of a couple tickets to Magic Kingdom so we spent a whole day there as well! What an unexpected and amazing blessing in the middle of a hectic and crazy time! We all had a blast!!

I think we need more family photos...
Pool at our hotel. It was so nice!
Picture with a princess :)

Having so much fun!
When we came home we continued the moving process, helped family move as well (it seemed everyone was moving at the same time!), and began to settle in.

October was insane. I don't think Dustin or I sat down for longer than a few minutes at a time when we were awake. November was much better, Thanksgiving came and went and now we're enjoying spending our first advent and Christmas season in our new place.

More catch up later!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Random Craft Post #2

"Bunny needs clothes so he won't get cold outside in the winter when we go out to make Frosty."

Who can say no to that? Not me. Plus, I had my sewing machine sitting out on the table and wanted to make something during nap time.

What you'll need:
Sewing machine
A half yard of cotton quilting fabric (no stretch) - I used the fabric from an old skirt I found at the thrift store and another little piece of scrap fabric I had in my sewing box

What I did:
This isn't so much a tutorial, but a brief explanation and pep talk. You can make doll clothes! If I can make doll (or bunny) clothes, then you can too! Honestly, I have never made doll clothes. I just recently  made my first shirt for Em and onesie for Declan...with lots of errors. They can still be worn and I can easily hide those errors though and I'm fine with that. Like I've said, I really am not a perfectionist in this area. I don't put high expectations on what I create so I have fun regardless.

I pretty much just looked at one of the kids' shirts, cut out pieces from my fabrics according to what I thought would work and started sewing. I made lots of mistakes but got this done while the kids napped. It turned out fairly decent...unless you're a sewing expert or have better eyesight than me. :)

Tips when making doll clothes:
-Add velcro for closures so your little guy/gal can easily take the clothes off and on.
-But...depending on the age of your child you can add other things like buttons, ribbons, etc to help them learn new skills
-Make the clothes a little bigger than you would think so they come off and on easily
-It's all about trial and error
-Have fun!

The great thing about doll clothes is that they don't have to be perfect at all. Not at all. They're great to experiment with, be creative with, practice for making real clothes, and your little one will love them no matter what. Em didn't inspect these or notice the inside-out sleeves (oops), or the arm holes that are different sizes, or the pant waist that is very goofy looking.

Em loved these and immediately asked if I'd make bunny a hat to go with it. :)
If I can do it, so can you!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Declan at Five Months

Wow, this is so late! I took the pictures but haven't gotten around to posting this so now Declan is 5 1/2 months! Oops.

Well our little man has gone through quite a few changes this past month.

Daddy's buddy

Declan weighs about 20 pounds now. It won't be long before he passes his big sister up at this rate!

Little cutie pie

He went through a 4-month wakeful period that lasted the entire month and we are just starting to see the light at the end of the up-at-least-every-hour-phase. He'd be up to eat or fuss about 7 times per night and it was pretty tough. I am tired. But being second-time parents makes those exhausting moments not seem so bad because we know that this is just a phase. It will pass. It won't last forever. Plus, this little baby will be grown up before we know it so right now I'm just trying to soak up all those extra middle of the night cuddles with my little boy!

Declan started rolling over this month. He hasn't rolled from his back to his tummy, but he has rolled from his tummy to his back at least half a dozen times now. It won't be long and he'll be rolling across the entire house!

Another big milestone that Declan has accomplished this month is sitting up on his own!!

My sweet peas...
 This one makes me a little teary eyed because now he just seems so big! :(

He's so cute sitting up next to his big sister, playing, and mostly watching her play. He's pretty sturdy on his own and it only took him about a week to really master sitting up without any support. He rarely topples over now, even though we usually take necessary pillow precautions just in case. :)

 Some things we're discovering about Declan:

-He's turning into a very noisy little guy like his sister. He babbles and sings, screams just for fun, and gets very VERY loud and lets everyone know when he gets tired. He's a passionate guy like his sister.
-He is not a fan of crowds. He'll get fussy and upset if it's too loud, there's too much going on, or if he can't eat in peace. Emery is so opposite of this (she loves crowds). He must be an introvert and she must be the extrovert!
-Along those lines, when it's bed time he will only eat and fall asleep if I go into a quiet room. He gets very crabby and refuses to eat unless it's quiet.
-Declan is an early riser. He is up and ready to roll by 6:30 am at the very latest. He's usually ready for bed at night between 6:30-7:30 pm.
-Declan adores his big sister. He just loves to watch her and thinks most everything she does is hilarious.
-Declan doesn't like millions of kisses...and pokes, and jabs, and hugs, and squeezes from Em though. It's all part of having a big sis that adores her little brother! :)

Em can get Declan to laugh better than anyone! He just giggles hysterically at her silliness! 

Super daddy!!

Friday, August 31, 2012

Best Books and Toys for Babies from 0-3 Years

I thoroughly enjoy reading/hearing/watching reviews about toys, books, games, clothes, housewares, and well pretty much everything. I like to do a decent amount of research before purchasing something, so obviously my purchases are heavily weighted on good reviews as, I'm sure, many of yours are these days. So although I'm no expert I thought I'd give you a list and some brief reviews of what we thought were the best toys and books for our kids thus far. A lot of these are played with far beyond the age group listed but I tried to categorize them into age groups that seemed the most appropriate.

0-6 Months


Lifefactory Multi Sensory Silicone Teether: Best teether by far! Very soft, rubbery and pliable, has four different sensations for the gums to chew on, easy to grip and hold onto, and easy to get it into the mouth. I love that it contains no phthalates, BPA, PVC, or latex, and it's made in the USA!

Baby Teether Ball: A close second. This one is nice because they can actually get the little soft spikey things into their mouth far enough to get to those back gums when they're hurting. It squeaks when you squeeze it, it smells really good, its phthalate free, easy to clean, and it's another easy one to grasp.

Rhino Toys Oball: Great first toy as it's easy for little fingers to grab ahold of, it's squishy and colorful, it rolld, and is all around interesting to look at. They come in some other shapes as well and some have rattles on them. This one's also BPA, PVC, latex, and phthalate free. This ball is also nice for teaching older kids how to catch a ball since it's easy to grab ahold of with all of the finger holes.

Manhattan Toys Sqwish: Both kids loved this one. It's made of wood, has moveable wooden beads, it's fascinating to look at, easy to grip and "sqwish," and was popular well into 6-12 months too.

Bright Starts Snuggle and Teether Elephant: Another really nice teething toy. I like that this one "crinkles" and is easy to hold onto. Also great for soaking up all of that teething drool!

Angel Dear Blankie: I actually added a snap to each one of the kid's Angel Dear Blankie's in order to attach their pacifiers so they'd be easy to find in the dark and as they got older and would toss and turn in their cribs. These are so soft, so adorable, and super cute as little lovies too. We only have one for each of the kids because neither of them is attached to them at this point, but I appreciate that the company sells these in 3-packs in case you lose one or so you're able to wash one while the other is being cuddled.


I would say that about 95% of our kids books have come from either garage sales or the thrift store. So keep your eyes peeled for good deals because you can buy a book for $0.50 instead of $8 or more!

DK Books Baby Faces: Babies love looking at other babies!

That's Not My Dragon (lots more in this series): These are super cute, colorful, sturdy little sensory books that the kids both really enjoy!

6-12 Months


Green Sprouts Stacking Cup Set: We have a slightly different version of these then the one linked. I love that these are simple and can be used for lots of different things. We've used ours in the bath, out of the bath, outside, in the mud, at the beach, everywhere. Also, they're BPA, PVC, latex, and phthalate free.

Plastic Egg Shakers: You shake them and they make noise. Need I elaborate? We just have one of these that came from Dustin's musical stash, but it was/is well loved. Great for little ones to use when they want to be involved in family music time.
Green Toys My First Stacker: Free of BPA, PVC, and phthalates and made in the USA. I really like the few Green Toys things we own. They are very well made and popular choices for the kids to play with. These are easy to grasp, good for teething, sorting, learning colors, sizes, and they are super easy to clean, which is always a plus. We just pulled this out for Declan to play with and he loves it (knocks over the stack, grabs one, shoves them in his mouth) and as you can see from the picture, Emery still enjoys it too! We found ours at HomeGoods (our local HomeGoods always has a ton of Green Toys) for half the price. 

Fisher Price Laugh and Learn Musical Table: Although I'm not a huge fan of extremely musical, loud, obnoxious toys, I didn't mind this one too much and I know Em loved it (Declan's not quite ready to play with it). It has removable legs so it can be used before they begin standing, but it's a great toy for little ones to start pulling themselves up on. It has tons of songs, teaches letters, numbers, Spanish, etc. It can get annoying (like any noise making toy), but it was worth it to see how much fun Em had with it. My mom actually found this for us at a garage sale and it was basically brand new, just missing the phone, for $3.

Sensory Balls: Made of all-natural, non-toxic rubber then covered in a soft fuzzy fabric. These were our favorite first balls--and still the best for playing with around the house. They are really soft, great vibrant colors, really bouncy, easy to grab and of course chew on.


I like it When: A huge favorite. I think the simplicity, the relatability, and the bright primary colors really make this book a winner. You can usually tell if a book is popular by the amount of tape holding it together. :) This one's barely in one piece still and I've contemplated pitching it many times but first I need to find a new copy.

How Big? I don't know if it's the pictures of the babies, the part of the book that you can lift-the-flap, or just the fun of repeating "SO BIG!" on every page, but this book was a favorite and it shows...two of the flaps have completely torn off. It was well loved.

Happy Baby Books (Words, Animals, Colors): Anything with actual pictures of real things and real babies is always a hit.

12-18 Months


Plan Toys Shape and Sort it Out: Wooden, made with non-toxic materials, and very well made. Found this one at a yard sale. Great for learning shapes, sorting, and learning colors.

Melissa and Doug's Jumbo Puzzles: Super cute, non-toxic, great first puzzles. We've found ours at garage sales and HomeGoods too.

What's Inside? Soft Feely Box: This is great for that stage when you find your toddler sitting next to an empty kleenex box, empty cupboards, drawers that have been cleaned out, socks pulled out of their know what I'm talking about. :) I love that each of the objects in this box have various sensations, rattles, noises, textures, etc. Great toy!

Wooden Blocks: These are durable hardwood blocks with rounded edges, free of paints and dyes, and they come in a wooden storage box. I think they recommend them for ages 3+, but I think this age is a good time to pull them out. They don't present any choking hazard, they're great for beginning imaginative play, working together with others, learning counting and fractions, and they'll be played with for years to come.

Happy Baby Books (ABC, 123, etc.): Great for teaching, love the bright real photos on every page, very good quality books.

This is My Monster (many more in this series): Super cute, bright colors, sturdy book with sensory patches on each page and a button to press to hear the monster roar.

Indestructibles (many in this series): Can be nibbled on, crumpled up, stepped on, and still look great!
Animal Hide-and-Seek: This is a great book. Every page has flaps to lift, sensory touch/texture spots (more than one per page), a little duck to find, lots of animals, and the book teaches counting from 1-5. Emery's favorite thing about this book when she was little was imitating all of the animal noises. On every page we'd go through the animals, "what does the chicken say?" what does the cow say? etc... Great book, definitely a keeper.
Snuggle Puppy: After reading it a couple times, it'll just take the sight of this book to get you singing! Loved by all.

18 Months -2 Years


Fisher Price Little People: These are really nice at any age because they can't be swallowed! We've purchased most of ours at garage sales (which you can find everywhere!) or they've been gifts. We often have a town of them set up somewhere in the house. I love that these can be used in the house, at the beach, in the mud, or be drooled on and then thrown in the sink for a quick and easy clean.

Manhattan Toy Baby Stella: Cute and cuddly, soft and easily washable. Emery mostly enjoys diapering Stella and taking her clothes on and off, pushing her around in her baby stroller, putting her in all of Declan's baby apparatuses, etc. I really like that I can machine wash her with no issues.
Doll Stroller: You don't need this one here, any old doll stroller will do. My mom bought this one for Emery when she was about 20 months old and she still uses this everyday. I do like that this one is red so it's not super girly, it's very sturdy and made well, but I don't like that the stroller seat always comes unattached. Every baby and stuffed animal gets pushed around in this thing and it's often used as a shopping cart for groceries.
Musical Instruments: Drum, mini guitar, tamborine, piano, etc. We found most of our instruments at garage sales in great condition. Instruments that are just their size are great for family music time so that everyone can get involved. These are always popular with our little guests as well. 


Quiet Books: Love these for the car since they're soft and won't injure anyone in case of an accident. You can usually find these at thrift stores and throw them in your washing machine with no problem.

Goodnight Moon: I'm sure you have all read this one. Best bedtime book and of course, a classic.

Dr. Suess Board Books: (Mr. Brown Can Moo, Can You?, Hop on Pop, There's a Wocket in My Pocket): All of our Dr. Suess books are favorites around here. They have been read and re-read over and over and over again. I love that many of them come in shortened board book versions so they can be enjoyed during that not-so-gentle time in our children's lives.

Whistle for Willie: All of Ezra Jack Keats' books are excellent, well written, colorful and very popular with Emery. She loves "The Snowy Day," "Peter's Chair" and "The Little Drummer Boy" as well.

Bear Snores On: I love this book so much; it's so fun to read, you almost want to sing it! Em enjoys it too. ;) The pictures are cute and it's written with such lovely rhythm and rhyme, "an itty-bitty mouse, pitter-pat, tip-toe, creep-crawls in the cave from the fluff-cold snow."

We're Going on a Bear Hunt: Another classic that is fun to act out, read, and sing. Read over and over and over, but still so fun!

2-3 Years


I think in this age group and above the best toys are mini versions of real life: Anything that is a replica of something that we use as adults are excellent toys. Mini cutting boards and knives, pots and pans and mixing spoons, mixers/toasters/coffee makers, dress-up clothes, baby beds/bottles/carriers/cribs, sewing kits, tool kits, garden tools, mini camera's, microscopes, etc. 

Green Toys Tea Set: Another lovely toy from Green Toys. I love that this can hold actual tea or water, the plates can hold real food, it's made from 100% recycled non-toxic materials (BPA, phthalate, lead paint free), and it's made in the USA. Em really loves this set and it's really well made, colorful, and gets lots of use in our house. Another HomeGoods find.

Sand and Water Table: A big hit this summer! Grandma and grandpa bought this for Emery this year and it's been the most popular toy among all the little guests we've had over. There are so many uses for it. You can fill it with only sand, only water, frozen ice cubes, water beads, water balloons, bubble bath solution, paint, etc! I like that this one has an umbrella to block some of the sun and a cover to keep it free of debris.

Melissa and Doug Pizza Party and Birthday Party Cake: We acquired the pizza when we bought our little wooden kitchen on craigslist. Actually, pretty much all of the kitchen food, gadgets, and shopping cart came with our craigslist find. Great deal! This is Em's favorite thing to play with in her kitchen. It gets played with practically everyday and I constantly find little pepperoni's or peppers, and cake pieces in interesting places. Emery loves cutting the pizza/cake, adding toppings, decorating the cake, blowing our candles, singing happy birthday to everyone, and serving slices to one and all.
Any kind of wooden play food (I like Melissa and Doug sets) are great too.

A nice sturdy table and chairs: I don't have a solid opinion on a certain brand, but I think something sturdy and solid (preferably wood) is best. We didn't want to spend an arm and a leg on a nice wooden one so we found one on craigslist with 3 chairs for $30. It's seriously so solid and will last a long time; the people we bought it from had already owned it for 10 years! I like that adults can sit on the chairs too without feeling like it'll break. This is great for just about everything you can imagine using a table for...eating, doing crafts, puzzles, having a tea party, doing some school projects, you name it.

Play kitchen: Again, no opinions on brands since we bought ours off of craigslist too. I'm not sure what the brand of ours is, but we got a great deal on it. It's two pieces (a stove top piece and a fridge), it's solid wood, and it came with about 10+ Melissa and Doug food sets, stainless pots and pans, table settings, etc. This thing has been played with more than just about every toy we own, by Em and every other kid who steps foot in our house. It's well loved so I'm glad we have one that will hold up.
Plus, this is a great teaching toy.

Schleich animals: These are really great quality, hand painted, made in Germany, and look extremely real-life. We only have a few of these that we've picked up at the thrift store by our house but they are used quite a bit. Em uses them with her Little People, in her sand box outside, in the bath, all over.

Schwinn Easy Steer Tricycle: After a lot of research for a quality tricycle that didn't cost a small fortune I came across this one and so far I'm really pleased with it. Emery loves riding this, it's easy for us and her to maneuver, was pretty simple to put together, it's very sturdy, great quality, handle comes off easily, and there is a foot rest that snaps down if your child is too short to turn the pedals. I love that it has a seat belt, two little baskets for carrying things, and a little bag behind the seat.

A Craft Box: Kids at any age should really have some sort of box or basket of craft-making stuff. I've picked up our stuff at thrift stores, garage sales, and after Holiday sales at our local craft stores so it doesn't have to be expensive at all. We do a craft with our craft box at least once per week. So much fun! The link above contains a list of ideas for your craft box.


The Jesus Storybook Bible: I cannot say enough good things about this children's Bible. We own a few children's Bible's and this one is the best by far. It is so different than any children's Bible I have ever read...I actually enjoy just reading it myself. "Every story whispers His name." Excerpt from the book: "No, the Bible isn't a book of rules, or a book of heroes. The Bible is most of all a Story. It's an adventure story about a young Hero who comes from a far country to win back his lost treasure. It's a love story... You see, the best thing about this Story is -- it's true. There are lots of stories in the Bible, but all the stories are telling one Big Story. The Story of how God loves his children and comes to rescue them."

Dr. Suess Books, especially Green Eggs and Ham, The Cat in the Hat, and Oh the Thinks You Can Think. These are the most fun, whimsical books that we all remember and loved reading as children. They don't get old and they are Em's favorites.

Look Inside Your Body (more in this series): This and other lift-the-flap books by Usborne Books are such high quality books, great learning resources, and are so much fun to read. It takes a while just to get through one page because there are so many flaps, and flaps within flaps within more flaps! They are great for keeping your little ones entertained for a while, the images on each page are so vibrant and colorful, and I love that there are so many of these so I can use these when we start units for homeschooling.

Berenstain Bear Books: I love that there are so many wonderful lessons to be learned from these books and I remember reading these as a kid and loving them too!

Curious George Books: Emery loves Curious George and all of his silly adventures. We have all read them and they'll always be around.

Jamberry: This book is just silly, imaginative, adorable, fun to read (and read, and re-read, again and again), and it is filled with really lovely and colorful pictures on each page. A big hit with everyone!

If You Give a Mouse a Cookie: Oh we read this one all the time. This one is just a classic goofy tale of why you should never give a mouse a cookie. I'm sure you've all read it, so no need to go on.

I know this list will change over the years, I'll add to it and of course there are many other great toys that I'm sure I've never even heard of, but this is what we've found so far. If you have any other reviews or suggestions feel free to comment and let me know!