22 Apr

Peas and Harmony (review + giveaway!)

I was compensated for this post with a free review copy of the book, but YOU have a chance to win much more by entering the contest below!

A potty-trained child is the gift of freedom. No more diapers, no more diaper bags, no more surprise wet spots on the furniture or the car seat or the lap dressed in dry-clean-only fabrics. A potty-trained child is everything, but as with many stages of parenting, it’s not an accomplishment easily won, and there will be tears (probably yours). To get to the Promised Land of Sunshine and Roses and Adorable Tiny Underpants at the far end of the Valley of TwoThreeFour, you must brave the Forest of Frustration, the Swamp of Despair, and the Bog of Eternal Stench (and you thought that last one was fictional…), and although the destination is worth it–I promise!–the reality is that there’s almost nothing to love about potty training itself. Almost.

As is true of most things in life, books make it better, and I have a really, really cute one for you. It’s not a book that vows to train your toddler in two days or work miracles with stubborn preschoolers, but it will bring some lightness and fun into what can be an otherwise joyless process. It’s called Go, Pea, Go! and the pun is not only intentional but integral to what has made the book an instant favorite in our house.


We have a lot (alotalotalot) of children’s books here, and while I’ll admit to having a soft spot for pretty much anything printed and bound and wrapped in a cover, it would be absurd to pretend that all books are created equal, to deny that some books are better than others. (My tastes are broad, but I still have standards, for goodness sake.) This book? Is GREAT. (I told the publisher I wouldn’t review it unless I loved it.) It’s a give-as-a-gift-to-your-friends book, a put-on-top-of-the-stack-so-your-kid-requests-it-more-often book, a buy-an-extra-copy-so-you-can-cut-out-and-frame-the-artwork book. It’s by a pair of animation artists (Joe Moshier and Chris Sonnenburg) who have tapped into that sweet spot between vintage and modern that makes the pleasure center of my brain light up like a pinball machine, and I tried to pick one page or spread as my favorite and ended up with several. (Apologies for the hoopty photos; I’m having camera issues.)




(And also cat issues.)

The bear driving the train is just…GAH, I love him. And the pool party! And the Gene Kelly penguin! And “tako” means “octopus” in Japanese!

We got the book back in February, and I swear to you Fox read it every single day (usually multiple times in a row) for at least a week. Two months later and it’s become one of those books any member of the family can pick out and no other member of the family will grumble and groan about it. Wombat, who’s well outside the marketing demographic, likes the book because it’s full of silly potty puns (without entering the territory of “toilet talk” most parents discourage), and we’re all still discovering clever details in the illustrations that give us a genuine chuckle.

The book comes with a potty chart and stickers, a page of music for a special song, and who knows, it might even improve a picky child’s relationship to peas. Sticklers of poetry meter will twitch a bit where the rhythm is a bit wonky, but if I can get over it, so can you. (Even Shakespeare has his moments, so iamb not one to judge.)

It’s really just a special little book obviously designed with care (I love the size and binding and rounded corners), and it has certainly made our potty-training journey more peas-ful and hap-pea. (I’m sorry, but I HAD to. Punsters are my peaple.)

Other peaple who are my peaple = my sweet peas in a pod:


Here’s your chance to win a copy of the book plus related merchandise from author Joe Moshier’s website conducthappiness.com. Yip-pea!

To enter:
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Here’s what you want to win:

1. ONE person will receive a prize pack that includes a pea plush, pea beach ball, pea tote bag, pea hair clips, stickers, and a copy of the book. (I WANT THIS!)

2. THREE people will receive prize packs that include a pea beach ball, pea postcards, stickers, and a copy of the book.

3. FIVE runners-up will receive a copy of the book and stickers.

The contest runs from 4/22 to 5/4 at midnight EST. Winners will be contacted by email and must notify us within forty-eight hours of the notification email with their address and acceptance. Please note that winners can be from the US only.

To learn more about the book (and for more chances to win!), here are the rest of the blog tour stops:
4/23: Stacking Books
4/24: Geo Librarian
4/25: Art, Books, Coffee
4/27: Coffee for the Brain
4/28: Mrs. Brown Loves Bookworms
4/29: Unpacking the POWER of Picture Books
4/30: Booktalking #kidlit
5/1: Unleashing Readers

Good luck, everyone, and hap-pea pea-ing! (Okay, I’m done now.)

(Peas out!)

30 Mar

Easy Easter Eggs, Three Ways

I’d be remiss if I didn’t repost this Easter egg craft from a few years ago. Traditional egg dyeing is fun but always turns out a little meh, so these are the techniques I use when I want something a little more showy. Theyse are still plenty fun and plenty easy (if not moreso on both counts), and they’re a sweet addition to Easter brunch if you decide to wake up and have a proper meal at a table instead of hunched over a basket of candy.

(Bonus tip: Use a lint roller — the kind with the sticky paper you can peel off and throw away — to clean up glitter if you have a problem with everything in your house glittering from now until forever.) (Myself, I’ve grown to like it, but that may be because I’ve inhaled enough fine-grain sparkle that my brain isn’t working right.)


Last year I tried to get my three-year-old to painstakingly decoupage a dozen fragile blown-out Easter eggs. This worked about as well as you’d imagine, which was not at all. This year we’re going a little simpler with stamps, markers, sticky dots, and glitter. Join us!


Glitter Polka-Dot Easter Eggs

Here’s how we’re doing the bulk of our eggs, since this technique was such a hit with my glitter-loving, attention-span-deficient son:


All you need are sticky dots (also called “tacky dots” or “glue dots” — I found them on the all-things-adhesive aisle of the craft store) and glitter.


I covered our work surface with freezer paper and tried to contain the glitter in baking cups, but when all was said and done, it’s a good thing I love glitter because it is now absolutely everywhere.


A few tricks I’d like to pass on to you for this project:

1. It seems like it would be easier to stick all the dots on and then roll the egg in glitter. This didn’t work great for us because our dots were REALLY sticky, which means we spent a lot of time prying them off the table and our fingers (funny, but annoying after a while). We had an easier experience sticking on a few dots at a time and then sprinkling those with glitter (which takes the stickiness away) before moving on. This also allows you to do dots of different colors on the same egg.



2. To remove excess glitter from the egg, use a paint brush or foam craft brush instead of your fingers, CHILD.



I love how these turned out and can imagine them becoming a family tradition, glitter mess and all.


Name-Stamped Easter Egg Place Cards

When is a place card not a place card? When it’s a hard-boiled egg nested on a napkin, of course. (Of course.) I love the look of eggs stamped with guests’ names for seating at Easter brunch. (Just don’t leave them out for too long if you’re planning to eat them.)


I got a set of letter stamps for under $5. (Here’s a Melissa and Doug stamp set with uppers and lowers for $16, plus regular craft ink.) Instead of inking up on a stamp pad, I colored the stamps with food-safe markers (which are great for leaving notes on tortillas and drawing derpy faces on cheese sticks).


(I’m sad to say I don’t actually know anyone named Fern, just that we’d watched Charlotte’s Web that morning.)


Edible-Inked Easter Eggs

And speaking of food-safe markers…


This technique (and all of them, actually) works best on room-temperature eggs, since eggs that have been in the fridge tend to sweat when they warm up, and that moisture will make your ink smear and run.


(If you don’t have edible markers, Sharpies are exquisite for this too, although you won’t be able to eat the eggs after unless you like the taste of POISON and CERTAIN DEATH, which I’m guessing you don’t.)


I love dressing up my eggs every year and hope you guys are inspired to give one or more of these ideas a try. Anyone up for it? How are you decorating your eggs this year?

4 Mar

Quality Time with Skype (sponsored)

In an age when it seems like not just anything but everything is possible, I make a point to regularly rage, rage against the dying of wonder. The technology we have now is the stuff of dreams, and to keep myself from becoming immune to the marvels of everyday modern living, I frequently remind myself to step back from the screen(s) and acknowledge that we are living in an era of miracles.

I do this most often in moments of tech-induced stress: when I’m on a work deadline and the Internet is running like cold molasses, or when my phone won’t fully load a video of a cat playing the glockenspiel whilst wearing a tiny bowler hat. You know, important things. Necessary things. Things that weren’t even possible a generation ago: when the popular media’s vision of our future was a landscape of flying cars and robot maids instead of a panorama of invisible data signals shooting back and forth between space and our faces, all lit by tiny super-powered computers a person may carry in a fashionable tote or even her back pocket (and sometimes both).

It’s magic is what it is.

My kids are growing up surrounded by high-powered consumer technology, and they never think twice about it until I get all wide-eyed and hand-flappy and point out, “You guys! You’re using a video phone! A video phone! The future is now!” They look at me like I’m insane and then turn back to their conversation with Skype Gramma (this is what they actually call my mother-in-law), who sometimes rings us up in the evenings simply because she wants to read the kids a bedtime story or sing them a lullaby or twenty.

It took some time for me to stop thinking of Skype as the equivalent of the expensive, low-quality, special-occasion-only long-distance phone calls from my own childhood (“Everybody shhhhh! Jessie’s calling all the way from South Carolina!”), and to start applying it to everyday uses. My mother-in-law combines long-distance with the everyday beautifully (she uses Skype every Sunday to just “hang out” with her grandkids in England), and the way she’s embraced the technology has changed the way I use it too.

Think about it: You can use Skype from the dressing room to get a second opinion on clothes you’re trying on. You can use it to make sure your husband’s getting the exact right kind of deodorant for you at the grocery store. You can use it to say goodnight to your kids on days you’re stuck late at the office. Skype closes gaps both large and small.

Here’s my kid showing off his face paint at a birthday party I had to miss for work last month. Sure, I was going to see him in person an hour later, but the way he was working on that sucker told me his makeup wouldn’t survive intact, and Skype let me be there when I couldn’t be there there.

Screen Shot 2015-02-09 at 3.36.53 PM

As parents we hear a lot about the dangers of too much technology, and it’s my hope that as my kids grow up in the digital age, and as I watch technology weave itself into the very fabric of their lives, I can teach them how to use it wisely. I want to be sure they know that its greatest use is not to disconnect us from the real world but to help us connect to each other, whether it’s across long distances or short, or for deeply meaningful reasons vs. simply ensuring my teenagers are at the library instead of the movies.

I picture my kids one day having kids of their own, and I wonder if they’ll call me Skype Gramma.

Yes, the future is now, but the future future will be here before you know it.

How do you use Skype to stay connected?

(Download the app and check out Skype on Facebook and Twitter!)