Archive for the Book Category

Letter of the Week

FYI affiliate links are included in this post.

The last few weeks have been crazy.


Friends deploying overseas for 13 months, little girls who dance having their first recital, little boys who turn two and have parties, mommies who go to college having final presentations, that same mommy hosting coffee house parties, Thanksgiving, and Christmas gift crafting. Lets just say there has been a lot going on.


Even with all of that I decided it was time for me to really get to this whole, home pre-schooling business.


So I did some research. I found a lot of information and bookmarked a few sites. I found that I liked Letter of the Week the best. Katrina, the author of the website, made it really easy. I am currently following the “Steps to Reading for ages 2-7”. Like basically down to the books and all. I like that there is already someone who has taken the time to write out a schedule and everything. I have felt pretty lazy lately, but I can follow along. I also figure that somewhere around the letter “K” or so I might have my own agenda, maybe.


While I did set out with the plan to follow her schedule and all, last week I failed miserably. Last week we did the letter “A”, and practiced with the short “A” sound as suggested. I did do some math, with K1, which was a first for us. We used apples and avocados to learn with. I learned that when we get to 5, she can no longer do math. That is okay, it was our first time and we are learning together. I love how excited she was for each new thing that we did.


I also cheated because we previously worked on writing the letter A, so I did none of that at all. See lazy mom.

Blog A 006

These are the related books that we read last week. (we read different books at bedtime) I requested all the books from our local library, so that I didn’t have to make any purchases. I requested books for the intro week, letter “A”, and letter “B”, all at the same time. We used the ones that came in.


When we read Ten Apples Up On Top! I worked with her on counting, encouraging her to count for herself and see if the story was right.


We read The Apple Pie Tree a few times. The second time I read it I asked her to jump up each time she heard the word “apple”. By the middle of the book she understood and got the hang of it, but when we didn’t say “apple” for a few pages she forgot. It was a fun idea.


I used Eating the Alphabet when we were making dinner having  K1 tell me what letter each food we were making started with.


Other than that I was kind of lame. I wanted to have a week of A word snacks, but we only did 3 days. I didn’t do a craft but, we were crafting for K2’s birthday and with everything else going on my mind couldn’t handle any more. 


This week we are already off to a better start.

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I refreshed writing capital A, and taught how to do lower case A, and capital B. We also already read a few “B” books this morning.


I tried to go over sight words with her a little bit using some flash cards, and have her sound out words. I like the show Super Why, and from watching that she already knows a lot of the sounds letters make. Either way flash cards were a super huge bust. Mommy got frustrated and decided it was time to stop. I also got frustrated with teaching her to write the letter B and had stopped that too. What’s funny is, just when I thought she was getting nothing from me, she did this;

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all by herself. Apparently it is working, I just need to do less each time. You know stick to the suggested hour.


It seems like this will be a fun plan for us to follow. I just don’t know how to make it work on days where we have morning plans. Oh, or when I will ever go to the gym again!


Got any good letter “B” craft ideas?

Twas The Night Before Christmas

Everyone knows that famous poem, turned book. Lot’s of family’s read it to their children every year.


Are they listening to exactly what they are saying? What unintentional message could they be sending their children?


I was raised in a non smoking home. My children are raised in a non smoking home. I have nothing against other people smoking. Except of course when they are filling my kids room with cigarette smoke, then I get cranky. I have friends who smoke, but they naturally don’t do it around my kids. Other than when K1 first came home from NICU I never felt I had to ask anyone to change their shirt or go somewhere else. They just did it of their own accord.


So on the daily I don’t think about it. I don’t worry about strangers walking by, because playgrounds and public buildings are all non smoking, so it never comes up.  My astute three year old daughter has never even seemed to notice.


When I was contacted about a version of Twas the Night Before Christmas, that was non smoking, “edited by Santa for the 21st century,” I was a bit surprised. Surprised because initially I couldn’t remember their being any smoking in the story. My curiosity piqued I checked it out online and promptly agreed to review the book. I mostly agreed, because I was curious how the story was changed. Was it worthy of our Christmas book rotation?


In short this book  is very worthy of our Christmas book list. The images are bright, and colorful, with an appropriate number of words per page. I think this Santa, and artwork are very cute. They kind of make or break the story. The book is described as staying true to Clememt C. Moore’s portrayal of Christmas Eve and it does. I was concerned that the changes to the story would affect the flow or feeling, but that is not at all the case.


Basically, in the version Santa kicked the habit,  so he’s not sucking on a pipe with a wreath of smoke around his head. Which is great.


I said I’m not against smoking, and I’m not, but everyone knows it’s not exactly great for you. So I don’t need to normalize it by having my kids childhood idols doing it either. Honestly if this never came around, I might would have gotten an old faithful version for our home and never thought twice about it. I am glad this is available.


What Amazon has to say about this book;

Gold Medal Winner 2012 Moonbeam Children’s Book Award Best Holiday Book. 1st place winner for the Global International Best Christian Children’s Book. This colorful and bright edition was created for young readers in mind. Attracting global media attention, The BBC, The View, The Colbert Report, New York Post, Huffington Post and many others for what the Kirkus Review calls a legitimate editing of the reference to the pipe and wreath of smoke for the first time in the history of this the most famous poem in the English language. This is the edition that is credited with having Santa stop smoking after 189 years and for taking a small bite out of history. The public health sector, parents, educators and grandparents have applauded and welcomed the addition of this child friendly edition. Printed on FSC certified paper from Wisconsin USA with vegetable ink dyes in hardcover, English, Spanish and French.


If you have decided you need to add this book to your collection, feel free to “dash away” here, Twas The Night Before Christmas: Edited by Santa Claus for the Benefit of Children of the 21st Century or keep your eyes peeled for it at your local book store.


For more info check out the web, Facebook, or Twitter.


Red Is The Color Of …

My daughter is a red head in case you somehow haven’t noticed. That said you can imagine when I was contacted to review a children’s book that starred a red head, I was at least interested. 

I quickly went and did an Amazon search of the book to see if it was even something that I thought my daughter would be interested in. Through my search I learned that this story was about a little girl named Tiffany, being teased about the color of her hair. At that point I was intrigued enough to check it out.

My daughter is young, and does not attend day care or preschool, so the subject of being teased is something that we have not yet encountered. Even still I like to be as prepared as possible and felt that this had the potential to be a great fit for our house.

When Grandma was recently in town I let her share this new book with K1. K1 loves books, and fixates on whom she receives things from, so I thought it would be something nice for Grandma to share with her (I already pre-read the book). Poor Grandma had to read the book three times in a row before she was able to get up. Guess K1 was making up for some of the time that Grandma has missed out on reading books to her, being so far away and all.

This story is a good length for us as a bedtime story. It is not too long, and not so short we need to read another book. Keep in mind that my daughter is three.

The pages are very colorful and the artwork accurately reflects the emotion in the story. There is a part of the story where Tiffany’s mom tells her some of the wonderful things that are red in the world, strawberries, ladybugs, rainbows, etc. There is a pretty lengthy list, and I wish that they split this into three or four pages instead of just the two that it is. There are so many things to look at and see, my daughter gets a little antsy on those pages.

Tiffany and her mom are completely believable characters, and the conversation flows between them easily. I appreciate the message. I’m thinking this might help my kids to react differently if a similar situation were to arise. The ultimate message is to love yourself and that comes across clearly.

I really think this book is a good addition to our collection, and may be one that I will be able to refer my kids to later, when/if they are teased.

If you also want to LOVE (in bright red of course) this book you can get it here at Amazon Red Is the Color Of… It comes in paperback with an extra audio option, and Kindle Edition.

Feel free to follow along with the Haisten Scribbler here

Have you used stories in books as a teaching tool to ease the hurt from teasing? 


*Disclosure This is not a sponsored post. Affiliate link included. I was given this book with the hope that I would complete a review, completing a review was not required. All opinions expressed are my own, and my differ from yours. 

Mommy Time

It’s no secret that I do not do a very good job at taking time or doing things for me. I find it very easy to put my family’s needs before my own. To me their needs are very visible. I figure I can wait a little longer, and a little longer, until ….. well I don’t know what will happen, and would rather not find out honestly.

I have noticed lately that my fuse is shorter than normal. Frustrated and exasperated with my children more easily than I would like. I told S this weekend that on his next day off I needed to take some time away while the kids are awake. That part is key for me. I feel like when I get away at night while the kids are sleeping that I am just cheating myself. I get less sleep and I don’t get to sleep in.

With nothing particularly exciting in mind, I took myself to Starbucks for an iced coffee. Of course in perfect Gwen fashion, I forgot my fancy new reusable iced beverage cup. I HAD to have it for the fourth of July. Because clearly my citrus iced tea would taste that much more amazing out of a reusable iced beverage cup than it would if slurped from a red solo cup. Duh! Well, I am bound to remember it one of these times. Of course at my rate that will be next year. Still next year when I use it, it will be amazing. Minus all the freezer ice stuff it’s collecting.

I wasn’t sure what I would want to do upon my child free trip. So I brought a class list, new book to read, kindle, and of course my phone. Lucky me captain crazy sat down next to me. No I am not being mean or calling names. I actually wondered if I should call the mental health dept. For real. Singing and dancing in a chair all alone at Starbucks doesn’t make you crazy. No, not that alone anyhow, but coupled with conversations alone, that does. I actually tried to talk to him thinking he was looking for a friend. Nope. He had one already. He’s just the only one who could see him or her. Sweet. Good thing I wasn’t reading at that time. I would not have been able to focus on a single word on the page.

I sat and burned through my phone battery, and then moved on to the Kindle where I sorted through classes for next semester. I finished up my free time at Starbucks with the first chapter of a new book. Then I walked to the store picking up a few things and headed home. As luck would have it I was greeted by a quiet and mostly empty house. That was a nice bonus surprise. I was able to read a few more pages before the family returned.

I definitely feel a little bit recharged. I guess sometimes it really is good to get away.

What is your go to get a way activity? 


My Friend Paris Books

Recently I was perusing my children’s book shelf and noticed there haven’t been any new additions lately.

After realizing this I was excited to receive two books from the My Friend Paris book series. I had not heard of any of these books before so I was interested to see what they were all about. I mean you say book to my kids and they’re happy, but it takes a teensy bit more than that for me.

The first one that we received was My Twins are Coming Home. 

Paris introduces herself in the very beginning of this book. As soon as I read that Paris was 3 years old, K1 said “like me!” That was all it took and she was won over. We actually read the next book first, so after reading this story she had a new love for Paris, not that she didn’t like her, just that now they were gonna be friends.

In this story Paris is telling us all about becoming a big sister, and what it was like while mommy was in the hospital.

I loved how bold and colorful the books were. The images were edge to edge with the words very clearly written over less detailed portions of the pictures.

I think that this book My Twins are Coming Home would be great for a few different reading categories.

I would have loved to have had this book to give to K1 before K2 came. The story is written from the perspective of the older sibling to be, and it could have helped some of the anxiety that children have when there is a new sibling on the way. They get confused and maybe feel left out. This story went over that without feeling like that was the goal. (I don’t know if the author intended that or not, but it’s pretty amazing)

Someone having twins would love this book. Maybe even little kiddos just reading (like really reading not pretending).

With the bright images and simple story lines, my daughter was completely sucked in. She already “reads” the pages to herself. (She’s memorized them from my reading, and I have only read each on 3 or 4 times) Paris is such a believable character for K1 that she has been asking me questions about her that I can’t answer.

We also received My Twins First Christmas.

Written and illustrated in the same style as the first book, both of my children were captivated. They both had lots to look at on each page and listed as I read the story, even K2 who is only 19 months old.

This book was a little longer than the first going over some of her family’s Christmas traditions, but it didn’t feel long if you know what I mean.

One thing I loved the most about this particular story, was how Paris talks about teaching “her twins” that not everyone celebrates Christmas. I personally think that it is important for children to realize that we are not all the same, and that goes with holidays too. For me it is important for our home to express to my children differences in life. I think it makes overall acceptance of each other easier, and I think the message is best received through things they enjoy, like play or reading. I guess that is why that part of the book stuck with me so much.

I learned from reading this story to my kids that sometimes it snows in San Francisco. Who knew? Not me? Oh and know K1 would like to go ice skating. All her friends do it. You know Tinkerbell and Paris. 

Since the first page of these books thoughtfully include an image of a few other books in the series K1 has already informed me which stories she would like to read next, and I might actually oblige her. 

You can buy these books here respectively,

My Twins are Coming Home

My Twins First Christmas

For more information about other books in the series or the author you can visit the My Friend Paris website.


Books I Have Enjoyed So Far This Year

This post contains on spoilers, FYI.

For Christmas our home received a Kindle Fire. At some point I downloaded the Goodreads app, remembering some conversations from Google+. Through the Goodreads website there are a lot of crazy things you can do attached to reading a book. Take a quiz, start a quiz, enter for a book giveaway, and set a goal. Yea I set a goal for a number of books to read this year. It seemed like the thing to do at the time.

I actually tried to be very thoughtful when setting this goal. I took a class Feb-May and I still plan to take another come Aug or Sept whenever they start. I thought that a goal of 12 books for the year was on point. One per month and all. Planning of reading none during the class months and extra during the other months.

Before I started that crazy English class I took I read this;

I thought that Enders was going to be out already, but the date has been pushed back several times. So I am still waiting.

I really enjoyed this book and that made it a super quick read. I read it in January and here in July I am still interested in reading the sequel. This is also the type of story that I can just jump back into once I pick it up. The characters are believable and jump of the page, if you know what I mean.

What Amazon has to say about this book,

In the future, teens rent their bodies to seniors who want to be young again. One girl discovers her renter plans to do more than party–her body will commit murder, if her mind can’t stop it. Sixteen-year-old Callie lost her parents when the genocide spore wiped out everyone except those who were vaccinated first–the very young and very old. With no grandparents to claim Callie and her little brother, they go on the run, living as squatters, and fighting off unclaimed renegades who would kill for a cookie. Hope comes via Prime Destinations, run by a mysterious figure known only as The Old Man. He hires teens to rent their bodies to seniors, known as enders, who get to be young again. Callie’s neurochip malfunctions and she wakes up in the life of her rich renter, living in her mansion, driving her cars, even dating Blake, the grandson of a senator. It’s a fairy-tale new life . . . until she uncovers the Body Bank’s horrible plan. . . .”

I enjoyed June’s Books On First book, Tanglewood Plantation. I am not certain but I may have enjoyed this book more after reading Outlander. Both of these books have some time travel per say. Outlander has a lot of sex scenes in it, and a lot of Scottish accent. That made the reading slower for me. Picking up Tanglewood Plantation immediately after was easy. It went quick, and was a nice transition book for me.

I am currently halfway through Safe Haven. If you participate in Books On First then you know that is this months book. (If not, go check it out. You can win an Amazon Gift Card in the amount of the Kindle Ed of the book, and there is a new winner each week.) I also have two more books from the library on the counter, the same length as Safe Haven. Clearly I won’t be finishing them in time. After the stack of books on my counter I do plan to read the sequel to Tanglewood Plantation. I just have to get there.

Amazon’s claims about Tanglewood Plantation;

Chicagoan, Summer Woodfield, is in for the surprise of her life when she inherits the family estate in Georgia. Not only is the antebellum plantation a dilapidated relic, but comes complete with a haunting cast of characters–characters long dead! Convinced by the estate lawyer to fulfill the requirements of her inheritance, she reluctantly sets up house in the haunted mansion. An investigative trip into the attic leads to the discovery of mid-19th century love letters written by the son of the overseer to Evaline, a mulatto slave on the plantation. Summer is drawn to the mystery of Evaline, and taunted by a thumbprint purposely placed on one of the letters by its author. When she touches the thumbprint, she is whisked back in time to the Civil War, not as the mistress of the manor, but as a slave–a servant to her own ancestors! Trapped in a time warp, she experiences the horror of the Civil War as a slave, while the secret of her inheritance is exposed, awakening a forbidden love story lost in the annals of time.

In that stack of books on the counter I have the sequel to Shoe Addicts Anonymous. This was cute and fun to read. Nothing heavy like some of the other books that I have read this year (thanks crazy English professor). I think every now and then I need a book like this to clear my reading pallet. You know kind of like smelling coffee beans in between candle scents?

I added this book to my “to read” shelf a while ago drawn in simply because someone somewhere said it was good and I like shoes. Yep, that really is how I chose to read it. Also the local library had it. It turns out that worked for me.

I am a bit disappointed because the book ended with lots of room for a sequel, and yet from the snip-it that I read in the next book, it doesn’t pick up where Shoe Addicts Anonymous left off. It’s a new group of peeps. We’ll see how I feel about it after reading and I’ll report back to ya.

Amazons blerb about it;

“Four different women. One common shoe size. And a shared lust for fabulous footwear.

Helene Zaharis’s politician husband keeps her on a tight leash and cancels her credit cards as a way of controlling her. Lorna Rafferty is up to her eyeballs in debt and can’t stop her addiction to eBay. Sandra Vanderslice, battling agoraphobia, pays her shoe bills by working as a phone-sex operator. And Jocelyn Bowen is a nanny for the family from hell (who barely knows a sole from a heel but who will do anything to get out of the house.)

On Tuesday nights, these women meet to trade shoes and, in the process, form friendships that will help them each triumph over their problems—from secret pasts to blackmail, bankruptcy, and dating. Funny, emotional, and powerful, Shoe Addicts Anonymous is a perfect read for any woman who has ever struggled to find the perfect fit.”

Now each time I log into Goodreads it suggests I increase my goal of books to read. Today I actually looked at it and saw why.

Since I set this goal with Goodreads I have, according to them, completed 11 of 12 books. For the record I did not start this on January first. I completed a few other books before using the app. And while I’m making side notes one of the books on the list is a trilogy that Goodreads is counting as one book. You know, three books in one. Yea.

Now I agree I should change it, just not sure what to.

So suggest up a new total number for me. I was thinking of just adding one more book for each month left after this month. That would make my new total 17. When I was taking that English class I barely read.

What have you read and enjoyed this year? What should my new reading goal be? What is your reading goal, or do you even have one?

Affiliate links included ….. this is totally not a sponsored post. Just thought someone out there might be interested. 

Books On First: Safe Haven by Nicholas Sparks


Welcome to our July virtual book club!

After last months great read I hope you’ll join us in reading Safe Haven by Nicholas Sparks (especially if you enjoyed the movie version!) Our Books on First discussions are designed to allow you to engage with other book lovers without having to clear your schedule and find a sitter so you can make it to Book Club. Hubby has to work late? No Problem. Up at 3 am with the baby and want to add your thoughts? Perfect. The only thing missing is the snacks. (And the wine? But you can certainly pour yourself a glass! Enter to win some wine here)

To sweeten the pot, we offer a “door prize” each week in the form of an Amazon gift card giveaway equal to the price of the Kindle edition of this month’s book. Please join us for chit chat, and enter the giveaways!

Here is what had to say about Safe Haven:

When a mysterious young woman named Katie appears in the small North Carolina town of Southport, her sudden arrival raises questions about her past. Beautiful yet self-effacing, Katie seems determined to avoid forming personal ties until a series of events draws her into two reluctant relationships: one with Alex, a widowed store owner with a kind heart and two young children; and another with her plainspoken single neighbor, Jo. Despite her reservations, Katie slowly begins to let down her guard, putting down roots in the close-knit community and becoming increasingly attached to Alex and his family.

But even as Katie begins to fall in love, she struggles with the dark secret that still haunts and terrifies her . . . a past that set her on a fearful, shattering journey across the country, to the sheltered oasis of Southport. With Jo’s empathic and stubborn support, Katie eventually realizes that she must choose between a life of transient safety and one of riskier rewards . . . and that in the darkest hour, love is the only true safe haven.

Click here to go vote for August’s book!

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