Things to Do - A Floor Full of Memories


Despite the fact that I take hundreds? thousands? of photos a month, I barely ever print any of them out. For Easter my mom bought F a scrapbook and when she asked for pictures I realized I haven't ordered any photos in over a year. So I purchased a huge box of prints and since then the kids have spent many an afternoon with the photos scattered all over the floor - recalling vacations and everyday events, trying to figure out ways that they've grown and changed, taping them into books and making collages, and fighting over who gets which print.

As, for me, there's something wonderful about seeing so many memories randomly collected together. Especially as we step on them all in our hurry to create new ones.

Happy Monday everyone!! In case you need a laugh this morning, here's F's newest joke (perhaps the only actually funny joke she has ever told us):

Question - If April showers bring May flowers, what do May flowers bring? (scroll to the bottom of the post for the answer)


*Fake Holidays

*The forest feast. Food blogging at its prettiest.

*this quote sort of captures everything i feel (well, maybe not everything).

*North Korea.

*I love these photos/installations of patterns using everyday objects. So much detail.


The "rug" on the floor is actually my dad's old baby blanket. Another layer of memories down there. Inherited ones, I guess, if such things exist (and I'd like to hope they do).

Answer - PILGRIMS!!!


Things to Do - Grateful List (March 2012)


* Listening to - The Head and the Heart
* Listening to - The Vaselines
* Watching Bill Cunningham New York (Netflix on Demand)
* Watching Tiny Furniture (Netflix on Demand)
* With the kids - Attending Out of the Box through Arts On the Horizon
* With other moms - Attending Lunafest and a night out with friends
* Obsessing over the Hunger Games (book and movie)
* Reading Ramona Quimby, Age 8 with the girls and Blueberries for Sal with T (over and over)
* The children loving Liberty Kids (Netflix on Demand)
* The return of Mad Men (finally!!)

* Easy salsa
* Cilantro/avocado/quinoa salad
* Senor Pan bakery and cafe (esp. the sweet plantains)


* A 60 degree at the National Arboretum - The National Bonsai Museum and Fern Valley
* The pizza playground and lion cubs at the National Zoo
* Georgetown waterfront park
* Zoo class with T
* Bubbles at Gravelly Point
* After preschool picnics at Alcova Heights playground
* The new interactive exhibit at the Hirshhorn
* A weekend of family adventures with Dan - Longbranch in the rain and Dulles' Air and Space Museum

* Our new google TV
* My kindle
* Storycubes
* A bicycle built for two

* P and F dressing their American Girl dolls for school and feeding them breakfast
* A diaper free household for the first time in 6.5 years
* T always yelling "partypalooza!" and dancing
* The fact that T now calls all sticks "swords"
* Closing out the bars during a MNO with neighborhood moms ("why are they turning the lights on? I don't understand.")
* The girls making leprechaun traps
* T painting ("look, i make an astronaut. and a playground.")
* The book exchange at F's elementary school
* The routine questions T asks while reading books together - "where's her mommy? is she sad without her mommy?"
* The kids climbing trees after school


F- my glow in the dark planets, Cybil Lily, Samuel, my friend E, having guests over, strawberry cake [at Senor Pan], bringing my favorite book to school, drawing pictures, planning our vacation

P - my jewelry box, art, crayons, markers, the zoo, the lion cubs, dollies, my family, Pocahontas, strawberry cake, coloring books

T - the zoo, pink sheet, mamas, dadas, my friends, the play and the playspace [Out of the Box through Arts on the Horizon], that we go to George Washington's house, choo choo trains, going to the playground, my cousins



Things to Read - What I've Been Reading Lately

1Q84. I really wanted to love this book. Murakami is among my favorite living authors, especially his early stuff like Sputnick Sweetheart (my favorite), Norwegian Wood, South of the Border, West of the Sun, and the short story "U.F.O in Kushiro" (one of the most wonderful, yet haunting pieces of fiction I've ever read). Since several critics hailed 1Q84 as Murakami's masterpiece, I hurried to purchase it (still in hardcover) shortly after the US release (by the way, after carting a 925 page novel to various playgrounds and kid museums, I bought a kindle and haven't looked back. Turns out paper actually is overrated). 1Q84 centers on two lovable loners who become entangled in a alternate world full of chrysalises, "little people", cults, murderers, and incest. At its core the novel operates as soul-mate centered love story*, but Murakami likes to put his own "spin" on traditional romantic material.

The first half of the novel read like a dream (a somewhat appropriate cliche considering the author). As a writer, Murkami specializes in creating alternate worlds so odd, yet strangely believable that when reading him you end up questioning your own sense of place and time. In Murakami novels the smallest decisions (exiting a cab, ghost writing a fictional story) can cause bizarre shifts in one's reality. Further, as far as writing ability goes Murakami has mastered providing the perfect amount of detail without over describing everything (I hate novels where the prose becomes so bogged down that you end up skipping whole sentences).

Unfortunately, despite the wonderful quality of the writing itself, as a whole this novel didn't work for me. Perhaps it became just a little too weird or maybe the flaws rest in the romance itself - while the main characters seemed so real that they practically jumped off the page, after a few hundred pages their love for each other began to seem contrived. I couldn't really picture them interacting in real life, (i.e trying to agree on which netflix to watch or what to do on Sunday morning). The interesting thing about my review is that Murakami himself (seemingly anticipating what critics would say) uses a subplot to debate whether a book can be great without really having a point. Unfortunately, for me, this book wasn't strong enough to answer Murakami's question.

America's Women: 400 Years of Dolls, Drudges, Helpmates, and Heroines
. Despite the 450 pages of reading material I practically inhaled this book. Lately the "mommy wars" have been getting me down (don't even get me started on Hilary Rosen), seriously WTF - can't we all just get along? So the idea of reading a book addressing real women's daily lives throughout US history appealed to my need for some sort of women's collaboration, a sense of historical "oneness." And I found it an great read. Thought provoking at times**, depressing at others***, and sometimes just quirky****, I learned about so many new heroines (Florence Crandall, Clara Barton, and Janette Riker, to name a few) - some who did big important things and some who just survived at times when surviving counted as an accomplishment in itself.

The Snow Child: A Novel.
I read this based on Constance Reader's recommendation (check out her blog, tons of great stuff over there). The novel reworks the classic folktale of a childless couple who build a child out of snow. Though the book started a little slow (with some unnecessary suicidal melodrama thrown in), Eowyn Ivey eventually succeeds in creating a well paced novel with full-bodied, dynamic characters and a captivating plot. After I started reading the second half, I couldn't put the book down as I NEEDED to know how the story ended (sort of the opposite of how I felt about the Murakami book reviewed above), especially once Ivey integrated a story of young love into the plot (and who doesn't love a love story?). But for me the novel's real strength rests in its descriptions of the Alaskan countryside, especially the winters. Ivey was born in Alaska, so apparently she knows what she's writing about. Ivey also does an amazing job riding the tough line between fantasy and reality, offering hints that go both ways and, ultimately, giving the reader some breathing room in choosing how to interpret the story.

The Hunger Games Trilogy. I originally had no desire to read the Hunger Games, I lost interest as soon as I learned that the plot involved a teenage love triangle. Luckily, while perusing a Nook in Barnes and Noble, I read the first four pages. And I was hooked. HOOKED!! I spend so much time complaining about the lack of female role models in fiction and it turns out one of the strongest, bravest, and kindest heroines ever created is everywhere, I was just too snobby to realize it. Katniss Everdeen pretty much rocks.

In case you've been living under a rock (which is fine), the Hunger Games take place in a futuristic society in North America, where the Capitol controls everything. Outside the Capitol the country has been divided into 12 districts (one for transportation, one for fishing, one for electronics, etc.). Katniss hails from district 12 - coal. Every year a random lottery occurs in which each district must send two children (one boy and one girl) between 12 and 18 years old to the Hunger Games. Twenty-four kids compete and only one survives. If that sounds depressing and gory, well, it is. But Suzanne Collins manages to provide the perfect amount of detail while pacing the story perfectly so you will not be able to put the first book down. Seriously. Be prepared to drop everything else. And if you're not into love triangles, don't worry as that doesn't really get going until the second book.

Though I found the first book far superior to the second two, all three are good, easy reads, which will make you think for quite awhile afterwards about an "imaginary world" where most people live in near poverty creating things to serve a small city full of elite. As this is a teen (preteen?) trilogy, I found myself wishing that my children were old enough that we could read the books together (like a parent/child bookclub) because the books touch on so many issues involving power, control, society, the will to survive, media scrutiny, and the word "hungry" itself - that would make interesting discussion with teenagers.


*In an interview Murakami summarized, "“Basically, it’s . . . [a] boy meets a girl. They have separated and are looking for each other. It’s a simple story. I just made it long.”

**"The real opposition [to women's suffrage] was pragmatic. Democrats suspected that women would vote Republican. Urban machine politicians distrusted women voters because they connected them with reform movements. Much of the money to run anti-suffrage campaigns came from the liquor industry, which realized it would be out of business if women got to vote on Prohibition."

***"Remember ... not to go out without your bonnet because it will make you very ugly and then we should not love you so much" - Thomas Jefferson (to his daughter). Jefferson also wrote that "the tender breasts of ladies were not formed for political convulsion." Ass.

-"New Orleans has a "fancy girl" market in which young and beautiful - and light-skinned - female slaves sold for very fancy prices."

- There was not a single woman scheduled to speak at the March on Washington and female reporters were denied the right to ask questions. Rosa Parks later stated, "Nowadays, women wouldn't stand for being kept so much in the background, but back then women's rights hadn't become a popular cause yet."

****"The most spectacular eighteenth-century fashion was the tower hairdo, in which hair was piled on top of the head in stiff poufs and topped with a wire frame coerced with ribbons, beads, jewels, and feathers." Feathers, really? Feathers?

"Western prostitutes allegedly made hygienic history by becoming the first American women to shave under their armpits. It was a way of demonstrating to their customers that they were free of lice."


Things to Do - Two Great Activities for Kids in a Hotel Room



A few weeks ago I posted about wanting a set of Kaleidograph cards. Luckily, the manufacturer somehow learned of my post and sent us two sets for free (Flora and Crystal, which sell for only $12.99 on amazon). I waited until vacation to take them out of the envelope, as they seemed like the perfect hotel room activity. And the cards did not disappoint. The girls and I can't stop layering different cards on top of one another, then twisting and rearranging them to make thousands of pattern combinations. The cards are addictive, even for adults. I also think we'd enjoy using the cards as stencils (perhaps with watercolor crayons?) but I'm waiting on that activity for a later day. On the downside, T played a little rough with the cards (he tried to rip two of them to shreds) so we created during his nap time.


Story Cubes

We won a set of Rory's Story Cubesat F's school auction (seems odd to say that we "won" something we paid for) and they've quickly become a favorite activity for all three kids. This makes me happy, as we FINALLY have a game that the whole family can play together ("game" being loosely defined).

The story cubes' magic rests in the fact that kids really love to roll dice (sort of a no brainer), and after they roll the storytelling comes naturally. My kids especially seem to enjoy the element of interpreting random information in a way that creates order and unity (i.e. making something from nothing).

T tells bare bones stories, usually something along the lines of "a bad guy came" and then [point to a picture on a dye] and then [loud laugh] WAHHHHH [throw dice in the air]"; whereas F's stories have plots and characters. P's tales fall somewhere in between. A fun way to kill some time.

For other storytelling activities, click here to read about our story stick craft and here to read about story cards.

What about everyone else? How do you keep your kids entertained during vacation "downtime"?


Things to Make - Travel Journals (and some more vacation pictures)


At kindergarten F really enjoys writing in her daily journal. So for vacation I decided to buy all the kids primary notebooks, with large lined paper and space to draw pictures, where they could record our adventures (I purchased this model, but I'm sure you could find or make something similar).

Not surprisingly, neither P nor T showed much interest in their journals, but F wrote every afternoon. And I enjoyed seeing the world through her eyes. If only to learn that as long as we stay at a hotel with a pool nothing else really matters. Only once did she write anything indicating that we left the property. ONLY ONCE!! "Aren't you going to write about the science museum?" I asked. "Um, what would I say? besides I already wrote about trying laseena, what's that word again?" "Lasanga." Why do I even try?

And in case you're wondering. I know I'm sort of stretching the "things to make" category this week, as the journal was purchased. But some weeks are like that. Even in Cleveland.


Upon arrival, first things mentioned - the dog and the pool.


We spent the next two days at Holden Arboretum and the Science Museum. Apparently these weren't as interesting as corn on the cob and lasagna (the "something new" she tried).


The hotel pool. Yup, this is where the magic happened. Or so I've read.


FINALLY!! Our outside adventures make front page news. Finally!!


Places to Go (Vacation) - Cleveland, Part II - Great Lakes Science Center


While vacationing in Cleveland we checked out the Great Lakes Science Center (located next door to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame). We have a family membership at the Maryland Science Center in Baltimore and reciprocity agreements allow us to visit affiliated museums for free (we always visit Pittsburgh's Carnegie Science Center on road trips headed west). So we've toured quite a few science museums and Great Lakes was among the best.

We all loved their temporary goosebumps exhibit, which dares you to face fears such as rats, loud noises, and falling (yup, that's my falling face above, I won't be trying that again). The museum's space/flying exhibit was impressively interactive - T flew a plane over and over again until a line formed and I had to DRAG him kicking and screaming out of the cockpit (interactive isn't always good), while F and grandma attempted to create a block tower bigger than all of the older kids' towers (they won!). Upstairs, a wonderful playroom for young kids (bring socks) sits next to a plethora of experiments involving light, sound, and everything else (we spent hours up there). In the summer you can tour a boat, but in spring we settled for a beautiful (though windy) walk on the waterfront. And to make the trip extra-special a high school orchestra performed in the atrium. F seemed amazed that kids could really "sound that good."

Regarding other adventures in Cleveland, we made it to Holden Arboretum, which was gorgeous and huge, tons of beautiful lakes and flowers everywhere, plus a kids' area with "stick houses" and teepees" (click here for some pics), but there's so much more that we wanted to see and couldn't fit in:

*The Children's Museum of Cleveland
*Cleveland Museum of Natural History (with a discovery center for kids)
*Greater Cleveland Aquarium
*Rock And Roll Hall of Fame (probably best for older kids)
*The Cleveland Museum of Art AND Contemporary Art museum

*Botanical Gardens
*Cleveland Metroparks Zoo
*Crown Point Ecology Center
*Lake Metroparks Farm Park
*Memphis Kiddie Park

So hopefully we'll be back one of these days. As Cleveland might be the most underrated tourist destination of all time.

HAVE A GOOD WEEKEND EVERYONE!!! I'm flying to Denver (sans kids) to visit some friends. And I can't wait for my weekend away!!



Places to Go (Vacation) - Cleveland, Part I - Cuyahoga Valley National Park

(wow, a picture of me, so rare these days)

My mom lives in the Chicago suburbs and we live 700 miles away in Arlington, so for spring break she suggested we meet in the middle. Originally, this plan did not thrill me. Even my husband, who attended to college in Cleveland, asked "is there anything to do there?" Surprisingly, there is. Quite a lot. So much that we could have stayed for two weeks and not seen all i wanted to see. I can't wait to go back.

We spent two days of our vacation touring Cuyahoga Valley National Park, which resides about 20 miles south of Cleveland. This place has it all - waterfalls, lakes, a beautiful trail system bordering the Ohio & Erie canal (similar to DC's C&O canal trails), a beaver marsh, a scenic railroad, and more. After two days of exploring, we only skimmed the surface of what the park has to offer. In the summer, the park includes Hale Village "an expansive outdoor living history museum", sounds awesome.


For our first Cuyahoga adventure, we visited the large and beautiful Brandywine Falls. Nothing like a waterfall to kick-off the kids' excitement for outdoor adventuring (though my mom's dog, Murphy, seemed a little turned off by the noise and spectacle of it all).


Then we checked out the Boston Store Visitor Center, which had a lot of displays on boats. Along with a box of REAL boat-making tools. I cannot begin to explain T's excitement; I hovered over him fearing a missing eye (yup, this is where the term "helicopter parenting" stems from).


Finally, we finished out day one with a trip to the Beaver Marsh. We didn't see any beavers, but a goose flew right next to F. She's convinced he intuited that she "really likes animals."


On our second day at the park we rode on Cuyahoga Valley's scenic train. On the upside, the scenery really was quite phenomenal, especially all the water (the tracks border the canal). On the downside, three hours on a train leads to a little (or a lot) of cabin fever. In all fairness, we could have departed at the scenic town of Peninsula, but since the Peninsula stop occurs early in the ride we feared we'd miss out on "the experience" (plus, all the kids just looked so "contained" and content, that i didn't have the energy to leave).

For parents with older kids (or people with no kids), I'd advise combining a long bike ride on the canal with a return ride on the train - a lot of other passengers did this and it looked like a lot of fun. Maybe in a few years.


It felt so wonderful to see my mom, especially when she played hangman with F while I zoned out the window.


The train provides earphone sets which document the history of the canal and the park. I found the stories and music interesting, but after awhile P grew "bored, bored, bored." Though after we departed she called the train "the best adventure ever!" What changed? I let her play with my iphone during the return trip. The rewards of lazy parenting.


Things to Make - Cardboard Posters/ Family Portraits


(We had to take several pics before T figured out what I meant when I yelled "turn your poster around." And I realized that there are SO SO many ways to turn a poster.)

This Tuesday's "Things to Make" comes from F, who is very excited about creating her own bloggable craft project. We recently bought new kitchen chairs, which came packaged in HUGE cardboard boxes. In the past week, the kids have used the boxes to make - boats, houses, slides, and beds. Once the cardboard finally broke into pieces, F decided that some of the fragments would make beautiful posters. So we created. And F would like to remind everyone "sometimes all you need is cardboard, markers, and a little imagination, that's the best way to recycle." Now you know. So get your markers out.


Everyone decided to draw "fmalei" pictures on their posters. I think I look good as a stick.


The box slide. Cause of many minor injuries and sibling disputes.


Places to Go - Pinocchio at the Puppet Co. (Glen Echo, MD)



(Photos by Christopher Piper)

Glen Echo's, the Puppet Co, is something of a DC institution. The girls viewed their first ever live performance there (Sleeping Beauty, several years ago) and I'm sure the Puppet Co also introduced thousands of other area children to the joys of the stage. Over the years, we've attended quite a few of their shows, some better than others (every DC parent should include the Puppet Co's yearly production of the Nutcracker on their bucket list, up there with cherry blossoms and the National Arb's Capitol Columns, it's that beautiful). So I felt rather excited when the Puppet Co contacted me about reviewing their latest show, Pinocchio (okay, so I jumped around the kitchen screaming "yippee!" cause I'm dorky like that).

The day of the performance the minivan broke down in our driveway (which, I suppose, is much better than breaking down anywhere else), so after changing out carseats and making room in Dan's car, we arrived at the theater with about two minutes to spare (pretty impressive, actually). The girls and I were somewhat cranky and tired, but luckily the production lifted our spirits. The theater itself is a large room with benches on the side (mainly for adults as the playhouse encourages children to sit criss-cross applesauce on the carpeted floor in front of the stage). One of the things I love about the Puppet Co is their easy-going attitude regarding children; suggested age limits exist for all productions (the theater does not recommend Pinocchio for children under 5) but several attendees brought babies and toddlers, which seemed fine (though I do agree that the intended audience is kindergarten and above).

Regarding the performance, the rod puppets were magical, the best I've ever seen. P kept saying "I just wish I could touch them" and I understood exactly what she meant, as they seemed so life-like. Further, the set-design worked well - slides in the background gave a sense of fullness to the production, making the whole thing come alive. On the downside, I had a tough time hearing some of the key characters, such as the fairy and the evil puppeteer. And the story itself seemed a little jumpy, as Pinocchio goes from adventure to adventure. I'm still not totally clear on why he became a goat. Of course, I haven't seen or read Pinocchio in years, so I'm not sure whether my complaints rest with the production or with the play itself. F, on the other hand, recently read Pinocchio in a storybook and she had no trouble following the plot, "oh look, here comes the blue fairy, mom. She's beautiful." The children, despite their crankiness, seemed to enjoy the production, especially the "really mean" fox and cat. When asked what she didn't like about it, P replied "in the beginning when Pinocchio was talking to his dad I was scared it would be kind of boring like [yes, she's only 5 and she can already use the word "like" in an arbitrary nonsensical fashion], but then all this fun stuff happened and I liked it. Especially the fairy."

After the play, we received a backstage tour, for which I really wish I would have brought my camera. The puppeteers explained to the children how the puppets' rods work (we all gave Pinocchio a "high five") and how they operate the puppets while sitting on little rolling stools behind the stage. The backstage "glamor" mesmerized my children, who talked all day about their special behind-the-scenes tour. Of course, after leaving the theater, we ran around Glen Echo for awhile - eating popcorn, cruising the playground, checking out the bridge and stream, with me PROMISING we would return soon to visit Living Classroom's outdoor museum and ride the carousal (which reopens April 28th).

If you're interested, the 45 minute play runs through June 3, 2012 with shows Thursday-Sunday (and Wednesdays in May). Tickets are $10 for adults and children. Click here for more info. For those of you with little ones, the theater also hosts Tiny Tot shows for $5 on Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday (we've never been, but I've heard good things).


*I love these pictures of NYC.

*Vociferous Transmission.

*Thank you for this, But I Do Have a Law Degree. Thank you.




Places to Go - Tea at the American Girl Cafe (McLean, VA)


As a kick-off for spring break I promised the kids "hot chocolate tea" at the American Girl Store, a culinary experience I approached with a mixture of dread, excitement and curiosity. The American Girl brand operates as a celebration of our national history presented through an incredible expensive consumer lens. And, as a parent, a large part of me applauds their efforts, it feels wonderful to walk into a store for girls where the dolls wear clothes that cover key body parts. Their "just like me" dolls play sports and carry book bags. Braces and glasses are available (for an additional cost, of course). Yay role models!! The historical dolls have such fascinating stories to tell - P's doll Nellie lived in a turn of the century orphanage. Her book teaches kids about orphan trains and settlement houses.

Then you see the price tags. Kit Kittredge, F's doll, grew up during the Great Depression. F loves learning about her. F also craves the HUNDREDS of dollars worth of stuff offered for Kit (I find it somewhat ironic that it costs so much money to teach your kids about the poverty of the Great Depression). The $90 "authentic 1930s-design" table and chairs. The $28 reporter "set". Kit's $28 school lunch? (seriously? $28 for lunch? during the Depression?) Where does a parent draw the line? Where? (I'm asking a serious question here. Can someone help? WHERE??)

Anyways, the American Girl cafe's afternoon tea defined childhood luxury. The dolls have individual seats that clip onto the table. The waiter gives them hats (the dolls, not the kids) for the "party", along with miniature teacups and plates. For $11 a person the food tasted quite good, perhaps a little too sweet for my adult palate, but I'm not their core audience, and the girls loved it. Even T keeps asking "when we go to tea again? when?"

If you're up for trying it the the cafe serves tea from 2 to 4:30, call for reservations FAR in advance as it books up weeks ahead of time. Click here for more info.


*Have you seen the Caine's arcade video? A 9 year old built a whole arcade out of cardboard boxes, with fun passes and everything. Pretty creative.

*10 great photos, especially the teddy bear.

*The commute.



Things to Read - Favorite Kids' Books V

Spring break equals lots of reading. Here's what we've liked lately. Click on the picture to link to Amazon.(And click here for Favorite Kids' Books I-IV).


Blueberries for Sal - Dan's mom bought this book for the girls a few years ago, but they never really took to it. Lately I've been reading it with T and he LOVES it. This is the first book where T has memorized most of the plot while paying close attention to the details of the narrative. The plot is simple - a little girl, Sal, and her mom become "mixed up" with a bear and her cub while picking blueberries on blueberry hill. But something about the sound effects - the berries in the bucket going "kuplink! kuplank! kuplunk!", the mama bear's "Garumpf!"- has T mesmerized. Plus, he's at that age where he wants parents to play a pivotal role in books. If we read a book without adults in it he keeps asking me "but where her mommy? where her daddy? isn't she sad? is she alone?" and it becomes hard to finish. Anyways, T loves Sal.

Dinothesaurus - All kids like dinosaurs to some degree (or at least all my kids do) but I can never remember which one is which. Who has the scales? Which is the herbivore? Etc. So I love this book full of simple, quirky poems, such as Barosaurus "I'm higher than five elephants. /I'm longer than most whales. /My giant neck is balanced by/ My forty-three-foot tail./A tail that is my weapon./It swings from side to side./From nose to tail I'm ninety feet-/Hey kid, ya wanna ride?" Plus the collage-type illustrations give us something creative to look at.

Wynken, Blnyken, and Nod - This book is odd. And soothing, like a lullabye. With beautiful illustrations. The author, Eugene Field, first published the dreamy prose in 1889. Over a hundred years later we can't stop reading it. And talking about the sky/sea, and shoe boats, and fish that may be stars, and dreams. so many dreams.

Ms Frizzle's Adventures: Imperial China
- About a year ago, we read a lot of books on China, as the girls were curious about other countries and cultures (click here for the past post). Yet somehow I missed this one. In Ms. Frizzle's Adventures: Imperial China, the Ms Frizzle mentioned is the same one from the Magical School Bus series, just as quirky and unique. Here she takes some students back 1000 years, to imperial China - where we learn about emperors, taxes, rice farming, the Great Wall, silk making, and tea - all while Miss Frickle's zany antics continue (I sort of love her). My kids had a hard time grasping the concept of 1000 years ago (don't we all?) but still we learned a lot and stayed thoroughly entertained.

Ladybug Girl
- One of my friends recommended this awhile ago, but we can never snag a library copy. Luckily, we now own our one thanks to the grade school book exchange (what a wonderful idea) and we really enjoy reading it. The plot centers on a young girl bored by the idea of an afternoon alone. Luckily she manages to create her own adventures, indoor and out. Unlike most of the girl-centric kids' books out lately, this one doesn't reference princesses or "girl stuff", rather ladybug girl's adventures involve lakes and logs, ants and turtles. Nice.

Japanese Children's Favorite Stories
- Ogres. Goblins. Sparrow fairies. Kind trees. Grateful statues. Spider girls. And one inch tall warriors. A quirky collection of tales, most of which are only a few pages long (perfect for bedtime).

The Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm
- Lately P's obsessed with the story of Hansel and Gretal despite the fact that I cry almost every time I read it to her. (abandoned children in a forest? and a witch who wants to eat them? even newspapers print don't print stuff this depressing). Whenever we go to the library P tries to find different versions of the story and bring them home (does anyone else find this odd?). This book is beautifully illustrated. And the stories don't stray from the original tales (why is the princess in the frog story so mean and spoiled? what's the moral?), so if you're looking for a great presentation of classic stories, look no further.


Ramona Quimby, Age 8
- I used to love Ramona books as a kid and reading this book with the girls reminded me why. Ramona truly is timeless. The chapter where Ramona and Beezus have to make dinner had F enthralled - "how will it taste? It's going to be gross. I can't wait!" And every time Ramona mentioned Yard Ape, F would say, "I hate mean boys, what is he going to do now?"


* The Top 100 Children's Books of All Time (according to childrensbookguide.com)

* Daily Candy's List of 83 Favorite Kids' Books

* 67 Books Every Geek Should Read To Their Kids Before Age 10 (this is a really good list, really good).

* Chapter books for 3-8 year olds.


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