Overstuffed: June 2014 Overstuffed

Monday, June 30, 2014

Gluten-free Blueberry Banana Yogurt Muffins

gluten-free, egg-free blueberry banana muffins. So good, you will never need another muffin recipe again!

Just before school was out I decided to make some muffins for the girls' lunches. It was towards the end of the week and grocery shopping needed to be done, but our bank account wasn't quite ready for that yet (I don't even want to talk about my grocery budget right now...ugh).

Anyway, I had a bunch of overripe bananas in the freezer and I figured making some banana muffins would be a great way to use up what we had in the house. The girls were finally in bed, so I got out my binder full of favorite recipes, thawed and smashed the bananas, mixed in the butter, and opened the fridge to get an egg...

...and realized we were all out of eggs. (You knew that was coming, didn't you?)

It was late, I didn't feel like making a run to the grocery store (and, also, we were a little short on cash, remember?), so I improvised and used some vanilla Greek yogurt I had in the fridge. The fact that it was vanilla-flavored turned out to be excellent because I was also out of gluten-free vanilla.

Those muffins turned out to be the BEST muffins I have ever made. They were incredibly moist, perfectly sweet, and all around delicious. The next time I made them, I added some fresh blueberries for extra sweetness, and they were EVEN better.

These are made with gluten-free flour, and I have not actually tried them with wheat flour. Still, you can easily substitute all-purpose white flour for the gluten-free flour.

Blueberry Banana Yogurt Muffins


4 ripe bananas, smashed

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Inaugural Beach Day 2014

IMG_8512 Sunday Photo web

I am a little late getting my Sunday photo/weekly recap up today because I was taking a VERY LONG Sunday nap. Because I am exhausted! We played hard this week, to be sure. But the best part was finally going to the beach this summer.

It was an absolutely gorgeous day (today is, too) and, after Bria's string quartet rehearsal, we piled in the car and headed to our favorite beach to meet some of our favorite friends. We didn't have a ton of time to spend at the beach that day, because Bria's quartet was playing at a wedding later that evening (her first paying gig as a musician and she made 50 bucks and was THRILLED--easiest money ever, she said).

But we definitely milked those few hours for all they were worth...

The girls built sandcastles.

IMG_8395 Beach Day 1 2014 web

And caught the biggest tadpole I've ever seen in my life.

Friday, June 27, 2014

My Extraordinary Sophia

A couple months ago, a friend of mine posted the following on Facebook:
"The youngest just made a card for her friend Sophia. She told me how Sophia stood up for her on the bus today when another person was being unkind. She then told me about all the ways that she likes Sophia: she is determined, energetic and wants me to be happy. We all need good friends."
Obviously, my mother heart grew a few sizes after reading that. Sophia hadn't told me about the incident on the bus, and when I asked her about it she didn't think it was any big deal. She said, "I just told him to be nice because he wouldn't like it very much if someone were saying those things to him." Then she shrugged it off like it was what any 7-year-old kid would do.

And let's talk about the qualities her friend noticed in her. Determined? Hoo-boy. I don't know that I've ever met a more determined child. From throwing tantrums at age 2 because I wouldn't let her cook her own eggs on the stove to just doing the things she wants to do without asking my approval (or in spite of my disapproval!), she has always given me a run for my money in the determination department. But that determination serves her really well, too, and she has done some awesome things because of it.

Energetic. Check. I can't keep up with her, but I love her energy and zest for life. And wanting others to be happy? That's perhaps one of Sophia's greatest qualities. She often uses all of that determination and energy to clean the house because she heard me say I was frustrated and tired. She is always looking for ways to make others happy and it makes me happy to watch her.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Personal Best

As usual, my children are my greatest teachers.

Bria just started to run track this year. She got a late start, because most of her peers have been doing it a couple years longer than her, but that didn't deter her at all. Plus, like me, she has exercise-induced asthma, and running track is hard! That also didn't deter her, unlike me, who quit running track and doing any kind of sport because I couldn't breathe well.

She came in dead last in every race she ran for her first three track meets this year. Was she bothered? Not one bit. As a mother watching the races, I worried about that. Was she going to be upset because she didn't do well? Would she compare herself to the other runners who did better than she did? Would she want to give up?

Obviously, I was projecting my own feelings onto her. Because I would have been upset if I didn't do well. I would have compared myself to the other runners who ran better than me. And I would definitely have wanted to give up.

Monday, June 23, 2014

How to Make Faux Chalkboard Art

This shop is part of a social shopper marketing insight campaign with Pollinate Media Group® and Sharpie, but all my opinions are my own. #pmedia #PaintYourWay  http://my-disclosur.es/OBsstV 

DIY Tutorial: How to make faux chalkboard art on canvas with paint pens.

My laundry room is a dungeon.

At least, it was until I painted it a bright, sunny yellow. Now it's only a semi-dungeon. It's down in our unfinished 100-year-old basement, and in the winter I really don't like hate going down there. It's dark, it's damp, and it's cold.

But laundry must go on, even in the winter, and so I have been looking for ways to brighten up the room and make it a little more inviting.

I found a really great 20x24 frame at the thrift store and had the idea to make a chalkboard for the laundry room. At first, I was going to just use chalkboard paint and have an actual framed chalkboard, but then I thought about it and realized that it wouldn't be very useful in a dungeon. In the end, I decided that I would rather have some permanent chalkboard art in the frame.

I spray painted the frame MONTHS ago, and it's even been hanging up in my laundry room all empty and taunting me every time I went down there to unload the dryer. (In my defense, it was better than a completely blank wall, but I admit it is also totally stupid to have an empty frame hanging on your wall.)

Well! This past weekend I FINALLY got it together and I made the chalkboard art. And, of course, I love the finished product so much that I'm wondering why I didn't do it sooner! So it is with us procrastinators...

Here's how I did it:

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Happy Birthday to The Maestro

Sunday Photo june 22 2014 web

The first week of summer has been full of reading, rain, friends, and lots of glorious sleeping in. I actually had to turn the heat on twice this last week because of the damp rain and colder-than-summer temperatures outside. Not my favorite. But at least I got to sleep in, so I guess it's all good.

The Maestro turned 40 this past week. Lucky for us, it was not rainy and cold that day and was absolutely beautiful and sunny.  So, we decided to walk downtown (we live a short walk away) to eat out and then walked to a park on the water and spent a lovely evening playing together. It was the perfect way to spend his birthday. The girls got dressed in their running clothes and Sophia very literally ran most of the way there. I didn't have my big camera, but here are a few iPhone photos of our lovely evening.

Summer evenings like this are what make the tons of snow and longer-than-normal winters worth it. Summer evenings like this are one of the many reasons I really do love where I live. Summer evenings like this make me extremely happy.

Bria DowntownerGirls Downtowner

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Seeds of Faith by Dan Barker

Ever since I spent a summer performing in Nauvoo, Illinois, I have been a huge Church History Fan. I absolutely love hearing the stories of faith and the experiences that the early members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had.

Curious about how I ended up as a performer in Nauvoo? Click here: Cast Not Away Therefore They Confidence
Dan Barker's newest book Seeds of Faith is a compilation of conversion stories from the early saints. I loved reading it. The journal entries detail many experiences these early saints had before they ever heard of Joseph Smith, The Book of Mormon, or the restored Gospel. Many of them experienced heavenly visitations, dreams, or other types of miracles as they searched for a church to join.

My own faith and love for the Gospel increased as I read this book. I appreciate the time and the research that went into finding these early accounts and organizing them into chapters of similar accounts. I think one of my favorite chapters was the one about those who took a long time to make the decision to be baptized. Some never did take that final step, even though they had experienced some amazing things that should have convinced them to join The Church. I loved these stories as an example of the gift of agency.

This is a great book to read a little at a time. Just one or two stories a day gave me much to think about and to ponder about. I will definitely be using some of these stories in future lessons I give at church, as well.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Summer Kick-off Party!

This post is part of an ongoing Summer Reading for Kids series. Click HERE to find ideas for reading activities, reading lists, and reading incentives...and keep checking back for more!

Our last day of school was last Thursday. So, naturally, Friday morning we had a little Summer Kick-off Party.

The Maestro made a delicious breakfast of bacon, eggs, and gluten-free waffles (that Puccini really thought she might get to eat if she sat at the table with us).

Summer Kickoff Breakfast

After we ate, we talked with the girls about what our expectations, plans, and goals were for the summer. We reintroduced our 2013-2014 Family Theme and talked about ways we could better incorporate it into our lives this summer.

Since the theme is "My Body is a Temple: Healthy Body, Healthy Mind, Healthy Spirit" I thought we would make physical, mental, and spiritual goals for the summer. I made some goal sheets that match the theme that is still framed in the dining room, and we used them to record our goals. The girls have hung their goal sheets up by their beds, and we will do check-ins every so often to help with accountability. (Mine is hanging next to my computer.)

My Body is a Temple Goal Worksheet-kick off summer by making goals with your children.

To download the .PDF file for your own use, click here: My Body is a Temple Goal Worksheet

We also talked about all the FUN things we each wanted to do this summer. We compiled a big list together, and I am planning on cute-ifying it and hanging it up in the kitchen so we can cross things off as we do them. 

Finally, I gave them their reading bins. (For more info on our reading bins, click here: Choosing Summer Reading for Your Children) Now, the girls can read whatever they want during the summer, and they do. We go to the library often and many books are chosen and read. But at the beginning of the summer, I put together these bins of books that they might not have chosen for themselves and I think of it as a gift to them at the beginning of the summer. And the girls LOVE it.

We gave them their bins and reading journals....

...and they couldn't wait to get started. They pretty much read all day, and have been reading quite a bit this week, too.

Nothing makes this mama happier than to see my children like this:

Kick off summer by throwing a party for your kids! Make goals, plan fun and vacations, and give them new books for summer reading!

And this:

Kick off summer by throwing a party for your kids! Make goals, plan fun and vacations, and give them new books for summer reading!

And this:

Kick off summer by throwing a party for your kids! Make goals, plan fun and vacations, and give them new books for summer reading!

So far, after exactly one week of summer, Chloe has read three books, Bria has read one and is well into a second, and Sophia has finished two. Hooray for summer reading!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Beauty Box Five Review: June 2014

"Summer Chic" is the theme for Beauty Box Five's June beauty box. "Less effort, more cool" means products that are easy to use but pack a big punch. (Keep reading--this post includes a code for a free box so you can try it out yourself!)

Nicka K Nail polish Beauty Box 5 June 2014

Nicka K New York Nail Color (Retail 4.99): I actually had discovered this brand a few months ago, and I love it. It is inexpensive, and yet it is as nice as any of my more expensive nail polishes. Also, I really love the shape of the bottle. Is that weird to like products based on their packaging? Because I totally do.

My toenails are currently painted a Nicka K red, and in this month's Beauty Box, I received a very pretty lavender. A very pretty lavender that my teenage daughter quickly claimed for herself. Which was fine with me, because that girl paints her nails on a daily (sometimes twice daily!) basis. And I think she can pull off the purple better than I can.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

You Can't Scare Him--He Has Daughters

The other day, one of my students showed up to her lesson with a gift for The Maestro. She said she couldn't help herself when she saw this t-shirt for sale and had to purchase it for him.

Naturally, I forced him to put it on for our Father's Day Sunday Photo. Force might be the wrong word, since he happily did it and even recommended the Charlie's Angels pose (end of post).

I'm so thankful that my children have The Maestro for a father. He is a wonderful father to girls. He has no problem letting them put make-up on him and do his hair (want to see what happens when he lets them do a Daddy makeover? Click here: Why Decorate Easter Eggs When You Can Decorate Daddy?). But he also loves teaching them how to play sports and the girls are often found in the backyard with him playing soccer or throwing a Frisbee.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Summer Has Begun

Everyone knows I've been waiting forever for summer. And it's finally here!

Yesterday was the last day of school. And, of course, the weather didn't much act like summer since it was rainy and cold, but who cares? No more getting up at 6:00 in the morning to make lunches and sign papers and herd cats!

I still had to herd them a little bit this morning, but at least we took them to school (with a traditional quick stop at McDonald's, much to the teenager's chagrin) and they didn't have to catch the freaking early bus.

Let's just get the hardest one out of the way, shall we?

Today was Bria's last day of middle school. And now I have a child in high school. I'm still not sure how to process this information, but isn't she beautiful?

Last Day of School Bria

Sigh. High School.

And Chloe is now an official middle schooler. She's still in her "I hate having photos taken of me" phase--I'm afraid it will last a while, so this is the best I got this morning. She's still super cute, as always, even if she doesn't want her picture taken.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Patio Herb Garden

An easy patio herb garden using cheap IKEA buckets, a thrifted basket, and a little bit of spray paint
I really wanted to have a little herb garden in my backyard this summer. A couple of summers ago, I tried to plant an herb garden in the ancient garden bed in the corner of my backyard, but the very day I got my cute little herbs planted a gigantic maple tree fell on them (you really should go read that link--it's a good story!). A few of the plants recovered, and have even come back every year since, but I realized I couldn't keep the less hardy plants there and expect them to live, tree or no tree!

Last year, I was too busy singing to garden.

This year, I am bound and determined to do better. I don't know about the ancient garden bed (my house is 100+ years old, and I think the overgrown garden is, too), but I decided I needed to plant a little herb garden on the patio.

The first order of business was to find some sort of container. I already had a bunch of cool metal buckets I'd purchased at IKEA during a trip to Chicago last year, fully intending to plant last summer. But I obviously forgot just how much time the music festival takes. The buckets are called Socker and are not available online, but only cost 99 cents each. They've been living in my office

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Summer Reading Journals and Writing Activities

This post is part of an ongoing Summer Reading for Kids series. Click HERE to find ideas for reading activities, reading lists, and reading incentives...and keep checking back for more!

Writing exercises for your kids to do along with their summer reading.

Part of our summer reading is writing. We want to keep those minds sharp during the summer, and writing is one way to stave off the summer learning loss. (So is math, by the way, but I'm not nearly as passionate about having them do their math workbooks, though they all have them.)

I have used little writing prompt sheets in the past—the type that have a prompt ("If I were an animal, I would be..."), a place to draw a picture, and lines to write on. You can find the type I'm talking about here: Story Starters for Grades 1-3.

I love the story starter writing prompts, but my older girls are starting to grow out of them. Instead, I'm going to have them keep reading journals this summer.

Make cute summer reading journals for your children to write about the books they are reading this summer.

Here are some of the things I'm having them do in their reading journals:

1. Write a book report/synopsis.

Upon completing each book, I would like each girl to write about it. I found a great pin on Pinterest with an easy formula for writing a book synopsis. (Unfortunately, said pin goes to a broken link, but I do know it comes from the blog Runde's Room.) I made my own version of the formula, and I glued it into the inside cover of the reading journals I made for my girls. They are just simple composition notebooks that you can purchase anywhere, though they are a little cuter than the standard black and white versions I grew up with. Some super cute options include these polka dot composition books and these composition books with fun designs.

Chloe also loves to draw pictures about the book she just read and commonly does this along with any writing she does. Art is also an excellent way to solidify learning and keep those minds sharp!

Help your children write awesome book reports with this easy guide.

To download:

Enter your email in the form below. If you are on a mobile device, click here to see the form.

2. Keep a vocabulary list

Whenever my children are reading, they are also learning new vocabulary. Sometimes they are learning it without realizing it, but they often ask me what certain words mean (or how to pronounce them). This is a great opportunity for them to take the initiative to look up unfamiliar words in the dictionary and write down the definitions.

The first exposure to a new vocabulary word doesn't generally "stick," so as a parent I try to find ways to help them use the word in their everyday language. My favorite is to play a game with them and see who can use it in actual communication ten times that day. Make it fun!

3. Keep track of the books they've finished

I'm encouraging my girls to write down the titles and authors of the books as they finish them. They could have a special section in their notebook to do this, or they can just do it journal style. Whatever works for them! It's also fun to keep track of how many actual pages you read, since that can vary wildly from book to book!

My girls will also be filling one of these out every time they finished, so they can earn a special reward at the end of the summer. (For this printable and other ideas on summer reading motivation and incentives, click here: How To Keep Your Kids Motivated to Read This Summer.)

4. Write down quotes and questions

One of the reasons I love my Kindle so very much is because I can easily highlight favorite passages and find them again. But before I ever heard of e-books, I was keeping a book journal where I wrote my favorite quotes from the book by hand. I am encouraging my children to do the same.

I also encourage them to write down any questions that pop into their minds while they're reading. Many of those questions will, of course, be resolved later on in the story, but it's fun to keep track of what you wondered about. It also helps in future discussions about the book for say, a book club.

Make cute summer reading journals as a companion to your kids' summer reading.

These are just a few ideas for reading journals. I'm sure you'll be able to think of many more! The main idea is to get them thinking about the book, and then writing about it. I also like to keep a conversation going all the time about the books they are reading, and constantly ask them questions like:

"What did you read about today?"
"What is happening in the story now?"
"Who is your favorite character?"
"What do you think/hope will happen next?"
"What made you laugh in your book today?"
"What made you sad in your book today?"

The reading journals were the final addition to the girls' summer reading bins. Only a couple more days of school and I think I'm finally ready for summer! (To see what books are in our bins this summer, click here: Summer 2014 Reading Lists.)

Fill a bin with books, a reading journal, and a way to motivate your children to read this summer.

Here's to raising readers! And writers!

How do you encourage your children to read and write over the summer?

Sunday, June 08, 2014

Our Home Stretch is Full of Weeds

This is the last Sunday Photo before school is out for the summer. It's the home stretch. Of course, this week is practically useless at school, what with all of the parties and FUN, but nobody wants to miss any of the festivities. Except Bria who has exams all week since she is graduating from middle school. Poor baby.

And poor me! I'm going to have a child in high school next year. I will only have four more years before she flies away from the nest. Why do my babies have to grow up?

IMG_8240 Sunday photo web

But let's talk about something a little happier.

Like all my weeds.

IMG_8239 Sunday photo web

Seriously. I don't think we actually have a lawn. Just a bunch of wild daisies and dandelions and who knows what else. It's been this way our entire five years in this house, and because of all the other issues, the backyard wasn't all that usable.

Friday, June 06, 2014

Orange You Glad It's Summer? (Free Printable)

School's almost out, and summer is pretty much here. Orange you glad? Me too! This cute little gift that Bria came up with  all by herself (I only helped by making the printable, driving to the Dollar Store, and opening my wallet) can be used as an end of the year teacher gift or just a fun gift for friends at the beginning of summer. Which is what Bria is doing with it--she made five of them for her five besties. (How cute is she?)

Looking for a cute end of year teacher gift, or just something fun to give your friends to celebrate the beginning of summer? Try this adorable tumbler filled with fun orange things and a fun Orange You Glad It's Summer? printable

Not only are these adorable, they are quite inexpensive, too. We found the insulated tumbler cups at the Dollar Store. Bria is on a chevron kick right now (she has an entire board devoted to it on Pinterest), so she was thrilled to find these. But I also saw plain orange and orange polka-dotted tumblers.

Here are some cute orange tumblers at Amazon:

Solid orange tumbler
Orange chevron tumbler
Orange polka dot travel mug

Use fun orange products to make an Orange You Glad It's Summer teacher appreciation gift.

Also from the Dollar Store: Trident Gum (a 4-pack for $1), orange-wrapped mints, and gumdrop orange slice candy. We purchased the Sinful Colors nail polish from Wal-Mart for $1.98 each. I had all the ribbon on hand, but it can also be obtained cheaply.

Total cost for one gift: approx. $4.25. 
Total cost for all five: $21.00 (coming out of Bria's allowance).

Looking for a cute end of year teacher gift, or just something fun to give your friends to celebrate the beginning of summer? Try this adorable tumbler filled with fun orange things and a fun Orange You Glad It's Summer? printable

Other ideas for filler:
Orange lip balm (Burt's Bees is good)
Orange lip gloss
Reese's PB Cups
Reese's Pieces
Orange bracelet
Orange Kool-Aid or Crystal Light packet
Orange Tootsie pop
Orange pen/pencil
Orange notepad

The possibilities are endless! I'm sure you could come up with plenty of other great ideas to throw in.

Looking for a cute end of year teacher gift, or just something fun to give your friends to celebrate the beginning of summer? Try this adorable tumbler filled with fun orange things and a fun Orange You Glad It's Summer? printable

To download:

If you are on a desktop or laptop computer, enter your email in the form below.

If you are on a mobile device, click here to see the form.

Your printable will be sent directly to your email inbox.

Orange You Glad It's Summer

Happy Summer!

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

June 2014 Visiting Teaching Printable

The June Visiting Teaching Lesson is The Divine Mission of Jesus Christ: Minister.

"But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them.

"But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister;

"And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant:

"Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many." (Matthew 20: 25-28)

Jesus was certainly the perfect example of serving those in need. There are countless examples of His service in the scriptures, but my favorite of all is when He washes the disciples feet. It is such a powerful reminder that it doesn't matter who we are, we should be ministering to others.

The quote that stood out to me the most in this lesson was "First observe, then serve" by Linda K. Burton. It reminded me of the way my friends, family, and Relief Society took care of me during my three pregnancies. I was so sick I couldn't even function, yet I didn't want to be some sort of charity case, so I was determined not to ask for help. Fortunately for me, I had many people in my life who listened to the Spirit, observed, and then served (whether I liked it or not!).

Since then, I have always tried to do the same. I know most people are like me and will never ask for service and will generally tell you they're fine if you ask if there is anything you can do to help them. And don't we ask that at the end of every Visiting Teaching appointment? And isn't the same answer given 99% of the time? Well, stop taking no for an answer and start looking around and observing how you can serve your sisters. Everyone is in need of some sort of service, and if we just open our eyes, we will know what it is.

Because that quote struck me so much this month, that is what I used for the printable. If you enjoyed President Monson's quote about being the Lord's hands here on earth with a mandate to serve others, that same quote was also used in the February Visiting Teaching Message, and I used it on that printable. You can find it by clicking HERE.

All images are 5x7 to be used in the picture frame I gave my visiting teaching sisters at the beginning of the year.
To download: 
CLICK HERE to download from box.net.

And in Spanish:

Primero observa, luego serve
To download: 
Click the image to download straight from Flickr. Instructions for downloading from Flickr are HERE.
Or CLICK HERE to download from box.net.

Monday, June 02, 2014

Choosing Summer Reading for Your Kids + Our Summer Reading Lists

This post is part of an ongoing Summer Reading for Kids series. Click HERE to find ideas for reading activities, reading lists, and reading incentives...and keep checking back for more!

I first started choosing summer reading books for my children in 2011 when I read an article about summer learning loss. Of course, I have looked and looked and cannot find said article again, but it said that if kids read just one book a week during the summer, they have significantly less learning loss and they are much better prepared for the following school year.

The first year, I actually chose all twelve books for my kids. Bad idea! They still wanted to choose some of their own reading material. Duh. In my excitement to start a summer reading tradition for them, I hadn't thought of that. No matter, they read part of what was in their reading bins, and they read many other books of their own choosing. Each of them read well over 12 books that summer, and I was thrilled.

Studies show that by reading just 12 books over the summer can help lessen summer learning loss and keep kids' minds sharp.

Now I choose 6 or 7 books to go in their reading bins. I don't care if they read all of them or not. I have incentives in place for them to actually read 12 books over the summer, and they usually read more than that so I am happy. The books I choose to put in their reading bins are books that they might not have heard of or probably wouldn't choose for themselves. I'd like them to expand their reading options, and so far it has been a great experience for all of us. They usually read and enjoy most of what I put in their bins.

How I choose summer reading for my kids:

1. I Google the summer reading lists that many schools issue for each grade. I find a wealth of information this way and get a really good idea of which books are right for their age group and reading level. I also find many newer books I haven't heard of, as well as the classics that I already know about. I also Google which books won awards this year and why.

2. We have a lot of books at my house. So, I go through these lists and check off books we already own. I don't necessarily put them all in the pile, but it's good for me to realize what we already have.

3. I make a list of the more interesting books from the lists that I do not own.

4. I then try to choose a mix of classics and more modern books, and a mix of thick and thin books. I don't want to overwhelm them with a bin full of big, fat tomes, nor do I want to overwhelm them with all classics. I also don't want to have the opposite problem occur. I take into account the genres they already love to read, and make sure a couple books I know they will like are included, but I also include other genres to help them branch out and perhaps find new favorites.

5. I usually make up their bins of 3-4 books we already own, and 2-3 books that I purchase new for them. The Maestro often earns a nice Amazon gift card at the end of his school year, and I always use it for summer reading for the kids. This year I only spent 9 dollars out of pocket on 7 new books due to his gift card.

Bria was really excited when, in the first week of 7th grade English, she found out she would have to read Animal Farm by George Orwell. She came home and told me that because it was in her bin that summer, she read it and was already that much ahead! Plus, her teacher was pretty impressed that she'd read a book like that on her own already. This is just one of the benefits of choosing some literature for your kids to read over the summer that they might not otherwise choose for themselves.

Our book lists for Summer 2014—9th grade, 6th grade, and 3rd grade:

Summer Reading Books for a 9th Grader

Bria's books (age 13, will be a Freshman in the Fall)(no, I don't want to talk about it.):

Life as We Knew It by Susan Pfeffer
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
The Maze Runner by James Dashner
Tuesdays With Morrie by Mitch Albom
Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Chronicles of Narnia by CS Lewis 

Bria most enjoys dystopian literature and has pretty much read it all. She recently saw the movie Ender's Game and enjoyed it, so I thought she might like to read the book. Life as We Knew It is also a good end of the world sort of read (I loved it), and The Maze Runner is one she's just never read for some reason. 

The Alchemist is a book I found on many Freshman reading lists, and one that I personally really liked. I had a copy of it once, but lent it out to somebody and never got it back, so it gave me an excellent excuse to buy a new copy. For more classic books, The Chronicles of Narnia (she has mentioned wanting to read them), The Great Gatsby, and Tuesdays With Morrie

Summer Reading Books for a 6th Grader

Chloe's books (age 11, will be a 6th grader in the Fall)(that's middle school, and no, still don't want to talk about it):

Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos
When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick
Star Girl by Jerry Spinelli
Half a Chance by Cynthia Lord
Inkheart by Cornelia Funke

Chloe hasn't really settled on a favorite genre and reads pretty much anything and everything. She also seems to LOVE everything she reads, but that's just how Chloe is. I got her The Invention of Hugo Cabret because she loves art so much and this book is mostly (amazing) illustration. Dead End in Norvelt and When You Reach Me are both more recently published, both with much acclaim. I've read both of them myself and I know Chloe will really enjoy them. 

Inkheart is one I'm not sure about for her, but it was on a list I saw and also on our shelves, so it went into the bin.  Half a Chance and Stargirl both looked like easy, fun summer reads, and for a classic read, I chose A Wrinkle in Time. It figures heavily into When You Reach Me, so I thought it would be fun to read both books this summer.

Summer Reading for a 3rd Grader

Sophia's books (turning 8 in July, will be a 3rd grader in the Fall)
About Average by Andrew Clements
Only Emma by Sally Warner
Charlotte's Web by EB White
Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan
The Candy Shop War by Brandon Mull
The BFG by Roald Dahl
Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren

Sophia has been much more into reading "big books" this year and has even recently tackled an abridged version of Little Women! She is going to do Charlotte's Web for her Book Club this summer, and a friend of hers is also going to do a book club and chose Pippi Longstocking (not pictured--still on its way from Amazon!). The other classic read I chose for her is Sarah, Plain and Tall. Chloe loved it at Sophia's age, and since it's not long or daunting at all, I think Sophia will enjoy it. 

The Candy Shop War may be the biggest book she will have read to date, but I think she will have fun with it! The rest (The BFG, Only Emma, and About Average) are fun and easy. I hope to see her reading a lot this summer--she is my most reluctant reader simply because she has so much physical energy inside of her. I'm hoping these books keep her really interested.

Sunday, June 01, 2014

It's Unofficially Summer Now

This last week summer unofficially arrived here in the North Pole. It's been pretty amazing, actually. I've spent as much time as I possibly could just sitting in the sun on the deck, responsibilities be darned. I am seriously completely solar-powered, and my body is craving the sunshine and Vitamin D the same way it craves oxygen. And it has been absolutely wonderful.
Basking in the Sun--Finally!

Puccini is loving it, too. And so are the girls, despite the fact that Chloe yet again has a surly expression on her face. I promise she is a happy child, she is just a little anti-photography right now I guess?

Joel and I have been walking as much as we can, which is nice. It's something we never seem to do during the school year, even when there isn't any snow on the ground. It feels good to get my body moving!