Monday, October 26, 2015

A Fall for Books: Seasonal Suggestions

We've been reading all kinds of fall and Halloween books lately. It helps that our library children's section just got a face-lift and that Teddy is recently easier to handle in the library. I've always loved the children's section, but last week we visited and found that they have even more tables and chairs and stools and bins and display shelves.

Teddy's favorite spot is on the giant Teddy Bear's lap.

Books organized by character-- we always have to run to the Thomas bin
first and then the Berenstain Bears bin.
This is my favorite new piece of furniture. It's a book bar for kids!

Anyway, on to the seasonal books we've found. Some were appealing to Teddy, some more appealing to Cal and Clark, and some I liked better. Here are most of the books about fall and Halloween that we've read lately. (Yes, I'm the annoying mom who puts a bunch of seasonal books on hold at the library all at once, and requests review copies for my blog whenever offered.)

The first pile of books about autumn and Halloween 

 Our top books and honorable mentions:

Hoot Owl

I will admit that when I first read Hoot Owl I thought it was weird, though I chuckled a little. The boys also thought it was weird. Then we read it again and laughed more. And again. And now they want to read it all the time and say it's awesome. We love that little Hoot Owl! I was trying to think of what is unique about this book and I think it is that it's a little sarcastic, tongue-in-cheek, but in an optimistic and child-like way. It's not your average children's book, and includes some excellent words and metaphors, that prompted great discussion for the twins and me. Teddy (two years-old) doesn't get much out of it yet, but I highly recommend it for kids maybe ages 3-7. Give it a chance to grow on you.

Monster Needs a Costume

Another favorite of the boys is about a creative, yet distracted monster. The illustrations are great and the concept is soooo familiar, as mom of specifically one indecisive child.

My First Book of Football

My First Book of Football is a brand new one from Sports Illustrated for Kids and Cal and Clark absolutely adore it. It breaks down football into easy-to-read and understand concepts and also has pictures of all the NFL stars. There's a little guy in there with thought bubbles that makes them laugh. That one's a big hit.

Here's a poor quality picture of a couple pages. 

Cal and Clark also liked reading Olivia Loves Halloween, though they'd probably not admit it to you, since she's a girl. It's cute with a cute little moral and I like that.

Ghost in the House

This one is more Teddy's speed. Ghost in the House has super cute illustrations and flaps to open and close. It is a counting book with a great cadence and rhyme with a silly ending. Who is really afraid of whom?! The boys (age 6) enjoyed reading it and Teddy (age 2) also liked listening to it and of course lifting the flaps is always a fun way to get them engaged.

Teddy also loved the Thomas the train book Ghost on the Track, because he loves everything that is Thomas. There are a couple counting ones that Teddy likes, but his favorite is the counting down one called 10 Trick-or-Treaters. He likes looking at the kids' costumes, but mostly at the school bus on a couple pages, and he loves countdowns.

My favorite two are The Little Yellow Leaf by Carin Berger, and Bear Has a Story to Tell by Philip C. Stead. The Little Yellow Leaf is whimsical and friendly and Bear Has a Story to Tell is just adorable. Cal and Clark enjoy it as well. Calvin and I got to meet the husband and wife author and illustrator for this book a few years ago at the National Book Festival, and they are such peaceful, sweet people that I just love them. They live in a barn in Michigan...which is weird but somehow cool, and the charming story of Bear is perfect.

Another good one is The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything. This comes with a cool story. My grandmother used to do storytime for the kids at the library when she worked there many years ago. She just this year sent us a copy of the book that she used to read to her kids at storytime around Halloween. The kids loved it any I can see why.

The other books we read weren't much to write about, but I thought I'd share these recommendations with you. Thanks to Candlewick Press and Sports Illustrated for Kids for prompting me to review some books!

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

It's Autumn Again

We are already two and a half months deep into first grade! Which means...Halloween costume conspiracies are thick and heated. A few months ago the twins were definitely going to be Star Wars characters. But now they are obsessed with Harry Potter. Teddy's biggest obsession to date has been garbage trucks, so we were thinking of making him into a garbage truck. Though just today he climbed into an oatmeal box and called himself a train, so I think we'll go with making Teddy a train costume from old cardboard. He also loves water fountains, which might be more straightforward.
We only have a little over a week, but I think we'll pull something together.

Just as a recap of Halloweens past, here are some of our former Halloween costume links for you to enjoy:

That time I made the boys into ceiling fans
When they were astronauts
The epic dinosaur costumes

Here are some other fall-ish things we've been up to around here.

Cubs baseball

Our fall baseball team this year is the Cubs! It's perfect because the real Chicago Cubs are in the playoffs right now. In fact, they are currently in the National League Championship Series against the New York Mets (who I am still mad at for beating the Nationals), and last weekend our Little Cubs played the Little Mets, which was cute.

Teddy preps the field

Good game, Cubs and Mets!
Snack time: the highlight of the experience
Outside time

We've had marvelous fall weather and have been able to spend quite a bit of time outside, doing predictably fall activities like collecting leaves and acorns, and the less common feeding of Sun Chips to fish, and casting spells on everyone with our Harry Potter wands that we made from chopsticks and hot glue.

My grand plan was to have the boys paint acorns and put them in a glass vase and use them to decorate the mantle. We didn't quite get to the painting phase, but we did have a spirited acorn-collecting competition and I put the best ones in a vase on the mantle. I'm sure it is just a matter of hours before they are blasted off the mantle and scattered all over the living room, but for now they feel festive to me.

We've been to our favorite local spot to enjoy nature, Popcorn Ponds. It's just down our street. We collected leaves, saw a giant toad, turtles, and spiders, threw countless seedpods into the water, and fed chips to an exuberant school of fish.

Tree ate Ted's shoe


Cal and Clark have been biking. We'd always felt deficient as parents when we watched them try to pedal bikes of any sort. We just don't have the space to store bikes and we don't live in a place that is conducive to learning to ride a bike. But my sister is a bike gal, having worked at a bike shop for quite awhile, and she helped us find good quality second hand bikes, and my in-laws generously are letting us store them in their garage a few miles away. The boys are already riding them! Instead of training wheels they rode around on bikes that were too small for them for a few days and then tackled the big ones. No sweat. Bikers. Bam. Just like that.

More outside fun...

This is probably the first selfie I've pulled off with all of our faces in it.


Our fall would not be complete without a visit to Hartland Orchards, our favorite farm ever, to get pumpkins and eat caramel apples and kettle corn. We went last weekend.

Out of the whole pumpkin field, Teddy found the one little
green one, and that's what he wanted more than anything else.

We got some normal ones too.

Watching the caramel apples being made...

Just add nuts

We got to bring Aunt Bean this year!

Teddy was not into the whole caramel apple idea.

Cal gets Clark's feet in his face when he tries to catch him going down the

Teddy went down as many times as we let him and all by himself.

A good day for us all

On Brian's birthday I made caramel apple martinis as well as butter beer, which, I trust all of you know, is from Harry Potter. I found various recipes on Pinterest and sort of combined them. Both drinks were extremely sweet, but amazing. I made a version of the martini not so sweet by using half regular vodka and half caramel vodka.

Here's the butter beer.

Butter beer: I didn't exactly measure it, but I put a bunch of ice cream in the blender with a bunch of cream soda, a couple squirts of butterscotch topping, and some ice. Put it in a cold glass from the freezer to make it seem especially Hogsmeade-ish. 

Tip: Make sure you don't fill the blender too full and be sure to give the mixture air as it mixes so the cream soda doesn't explode the lid off. I have good reason to believe it will. To give it some over-21-kick add a couple ounces of butterscotch schnapps.

The boys drank all the butter beer they could get their hands on.

Caramel Apple Martini: 2 oz. apple cider, 2 oz. caramel vodka,
1 oz butterscotch schnapps, shake with ice, pour glass rimmed 
with caramel sauce, garnish with apple slice.

Fall Snack Experimenting

Today I made apple pie granola bars. I have a recipe that I've used for straight-up granola bars with brown sugar, honey, cinnamon, and vanilla. But, being inspired by fall flavors and such, this time I decreased the sugar and honey and added applesauce, caramel dip, all-spice, nutmeg, and finely chopped and peeled apples. They turned out well, though I doubt anyone would call them apple pie flavored unless they knew the ingredients. They also didn't harden as well as I hoped, but they will be a staple of the lunch boxes this week.

Cutting straight and/or even lines: not in my skill set


Brian has been reading Harry Potter to the boys and they are beyond obsessed with the books. They are always talking about the books or acting out scenes from the books and their own scenes, loosely based on the books. We have to draw a line and cut them off from Harry Potter talk occasionally. The boys have started real homework! So they're reading even more than usual these days, which is great.

We've read a bunch of fall and Halloween-inspired books as well, but as this post is getting long and tedious already, I'll save my book reviews for the next entry-- which I promise will be soon.

Until then...go play in the leaves or something.

Clark, in full hockey gear, reading to Teddy
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