Thursday, May 19, 2016

Announcing "We Found A Hat"!

Hi guys! Been a crazy week this week for me. And Jubilee has officially stopped napping in the afternoons, too. Yikes! But I came acorss something on my internets that I just had to share with you.

Jon Klassen is publishing a third book in his Hat series!

We Found A Hat by Jon Klassen
It comes out Oct 11, 2016.

If you haven't read the previous books in the series, fix that. Here is Ashley's review of I Want My Hat Back, and in this post I recommend both I Want My Hat Back and This Is Not My Hat as great read-alouds for kids.

I can't wait to read this one.

What books are you excited about?

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Teaching Kids About Money: 3 Books I Recommend for Parents

I just finished reading Smart Money Smart Kids by Dave Ramsey and Rachel Cruze. I found the book very helpful.

At first I didn't think I could dig it, and I thought it was inferior to The Parenting Breakthrough by Merrilee Boyack, I've talked a little about Boyack's book here). The plan presented in Smart Money Smart Kids is not as actionable. Its tone is more like a blog post or radio show, rather than a book.

But then I got into it and I liked it. I think I really started getting into it once there were personal stories from Dave's kids. Rachel's first-hand account of saving up for a car, the story of her brother's generosity, and the story of the first (and only) time she got an insufficient funds letter from the bank. :-) These were where I felt the book really warmed up and began to meet my expectations.

Then there was the part at the end, which has surprised me with it's applicability. Dave talks about teaching our kids generosity and contentment, and that has helped me to actually begin to do that and teach that in my kids. To recognize signs of jealousy and envy as the first steps toward discontentment and "rise up and fight continuously and fiercely to protect your child from these enemies."

Just today we took some time as a family to celebrate Benjamin's accomplishment of swimming across a 25m pool without assistance or stopping. When I announced that we were going to "go get Benjamin his ice cream" Levi (age 5) began to whine and fuss, and when I calmed him down he continued to try and convince me that what Benjamin had done was "not that good" and didn't deserve special recognition. Before, I might have just brushed this behavior off. Instead today I took a minute to talk to Levi about how I want him to be the kind of person who can celebrate the success of others, and how that ability leads to a happier life. I don't know yet if the lecture took, but time will tell I suppose.

So. I'm finding principles in Smart Money Smart Kids more applicable than I initially thought.

We already have a money system for our kids that I'm happy with. It comes from The Parenting Breakthrough, which I mentioned above. And it has a lot of similarities with the system outlined in Smart Money Smart Kids. Both of them teach that you must 1) require your kids to work, 2) Teach them how to use their money to give, save, and spend, and 3) give them more responsibilities over money by giving them a clothing budget at age 12 that is subject to your approval. Both systems advocate for your kids working on commission at home and once they're 12+ outside of the home, too.

The difference between the systems is that The Parenting Breakthrough calls what you pay your child from age 5-12 "allowance" and Smart Money Smart Kids calls it all "commission." They're both really doing the same thing though. In both books the kids must do the chores, in both they get a pre-set amount at a regular interval (monthly or weekly), but can earn more.

Personally, we're sticking with calling it allowance* at this point because we had a failed experiment with paying on commission. Benjamin (age 7) is happy to forgo both work and money, until he wants something in particular. In the past I told him to do a chore and he said, "what if I don't do it?" to which I responded "you don't get paid." That was usually fine by him, and he didn't do many chores, which frustrated me. When we started the system outlined in The Parenting Breakthrough he was assigned a chore and said "What if I don't do it?" I said, "Then you don't get GO TIME. You don't get to go to school, or read a book or watch any shows." He was flabbergasted. I had to explain that he was going to get paid no matter what, and that he had to do his chores, no matter what.

The Parenting Breakthrough tells you to encourage the kids to earn more than their allowance (which should be quite small) by working on commission. Then, at age 12 to cut the allowance off completely and only pay on commission - by this point, they've had an allowance for 7 years, plus earned more than it, so they're used to working for pay. She said their kids didn't mind losing the allowance at 12 because they gained the "clothing budget" lump sum and were excited to try that out.

I'm interested to see how my own kids learn as they grow. By all means, if you have questions about what we are doing specifically, leave them in the comments and I will answer.  

Overall, I definitely recommend Smart Money Smart Kids, but I say if you're not familiar with (and basically following) Dave Ramsey's plan outlined in the Total Money Makeover,  you're going to want to read that one first and start that. Jacob and I have found the baby steps in Total Money Makeover enormously helpful.

If you struggle with knowing what jobs to assign your kids at what ages, definitely get The Parenting Breakthrough. It takes the cake there, with no competition.

Well, what started out as reviewing one book turned in to recommending three books! There ya go. I've linked the cover images above to Amazon, so that you can shop the books if you like, and if you make purchases through my links I earn a small commission. 

Now, I'm excited to talk to you guys about kids and chores and money. Tell me what is working for your family. Ask me anything! 

*actually, we don't usually call it "allowance" we call it "payday" or "money." For example, "Did we already get our payday?" and "Did you divide up your money?"

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Favorite Picture Books About Cleaning + Happy Mother's Day

This is a guest post by Bethany Jensen. I met Bethany at book club and she has great taste in books! Bethany, I'm right there with you on this first paragraph. - Alysa

I don’t like to clean. I love things to be clean, but I don’t like to do it. I put off tasks until I can’t stand the chaos anymore or we have company coming, whichever comes first. Whenever we clean, the first question from my kids is, “who’s coming over?” Thinking back to my favorite picture books I was surprised to see that I gravitated toward books with cleaning in them.

My favorite picture book is Miss Suzy by Miriam Young with pictures by Arnold Lobel. Miss Suzy loves her little home in a tree with her acorn cups and her firefly lamps. Evil squirrels take it away and she finds herself in an old attic with a beautiful dollhouse. The dollhouse is fit for a queen, but Miss Suzy misses her humble home.  This story has everything I love: good vs. evil, adventure, love, a song here and there, and cleaning.

My second favorite book is Small Pig by Arnold Lobel. (It wasn’t until I was older that I put together that the illustrator is the same for Miss Suzy.) The farmer’s wife cleans everything, including the small pig’s good soft mud. He runs away searching for the mud he loves. This book has a lot of emotion for such a small pig. You get mad with him, sad, scared and ultimately happy. I also like that he is terrified of the vacuum. A sensible reaction, I think.

I found this book at the library a few years back and fell in love with it, especially her illustration style. Of course, it includes doing laundry. Ghosts in the House by Kazoona Kohara is a charming story of a little witch who takes her haunts and makes them into curtains and tablecloths.

Max Cleans Up by Rosemary Wells. We love all the Max and Ruby books. (My daughter’s name is Ruby). This one in particular is adorable because the illustrations mix real with drawings. Ruby is helping Max clean up his room, but he doesn’t like throwing anything away, even a melted popsicle. My little Ruby is just like Max. This is why I secretly clean her room sometimes. Shh, don’t tell.

But really, what these books are about are making a house a home. It doesn’t matter if it is big or small, messy or clean, fancy or plain it is home. Creating a home (which is more than just cleaning it) is one thing we mothers do. So, happy mother’s day to all queens of the castle and the heart of the home.

Thank you so much, Bethany! I'm a huge fan of Rosemary Wells, but I don't know if I've ever read Max Cleans Up. A previous library of ours had a copy of Max's Dragon Shirt and Bunny Cakes, and we checked them out over and over. All of these books look lovely. You know what I'm reminded of? The movie My Neighbor Totoro. In it, two little girls help their father clean the house as they move in. It's just the best. Thank you for the wonderful recommendations!

Friends, I have used affiliate links for book covers (and for Totoro) in case you'd like to shop or to look at more reviews. If you make purchases through my affiliate links, I make a small commission. 

Do you have any favorite picture books that incorporate cleaning? I've got none but I'm going to be checking these out in an attempt to persuade my kids that cleaning is a good idea. Share me your favorites if you have them! -Alysa

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

What I Read Today: Reading Log for May The Fourth

Hi! Happy Star Wars day! We went to the library this evening and discovered some festivities happening. :)

I've been thinking for a while that it would be fun to keep track of everything I'm reading. But I have to say the prospect of keeping it up seems daunting. I think I'd have to log my reading just for a week or something.  A week is long enough to give a picture, but not so long that I'd get to feeling I could just start tomorrow.

Anyway, here's some of what I read today!


Secrets of the Vegetable Garden by Carron Brown & Giordano Poloni - Read this to Jubilee on her request. We got this book from my mom for Easter, it's really cool! It's an Usborne Shine-a-Light book. So you read it and then you shine a flashlight behind the page you're reading and a hidden image appears.

A Tale of Two Beasts by Fiona Roberton - Another book from my mom for Easter, and another request from Jubilee. This one tells the same story but from two perspectives. First, a little girl finds a small beast in the woods and takes it home. Second, a little animal in the woods gets kidnapped by a long-haired beast! It's fun to compare the two stories, and has already led to some conversations about perspective and perceptions.

Smart Money Smart Kids - This is the non-fiction grown-up book I'm reading right now. I wasn't sure if I could get into it when I started, but now I'm really enjoying it! We like Dave Ramsey, and this book is by him and his daughter about how to teach your kids about money. I haven't run up against anything that sounds like bad advice yet, and I finally got to the real kicker of a story about how much it would stink to be Dave Ramsey's daughter, haha.

Tyra the Designer Fairy - Can you guess that Jubilee requested this one as well? Yes, she did. We've got it out from the library, and I read the first couple paragraphs to her to bribe her to get into bed. This is a whole series. They're cute. They're fine. When I read them I feel like I should become a ghostwriter, because it seems like it'd be pretty easy to come up with formulaic plots like these.

Avatar the Last Airbender The Rift Part 1 - Also a request from Jubilee, albeit a surprising one. This is a graphic novel targeted to ages 8-12 that I got from doing the Cybils a couple years back. She listened to the whole thing. Ok that's not true. She made me skip a few panels. I had fun rereading it though and am reminded that I haven't read parts 2 and 3 yet. Gotta get on that.


Levi's Ladybug magazine arrived today and while I didn't read a lot of it yet, I did help him a bit with the craft. I wrote more about Ladybug mag here.

From the current issue of the Ensign magazine (put out by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) I enjoyed "A Sacred Trust" and "Choices" both by Thomas S. Monson. I actually listened to them, rather than reading them.

Internet articles:

"No Regrets. Can it Be Done?" about motherhood at Design Mom - I bet the comments section is fabulous. She always gets super thoughtful and good comments from a variety of perspectives. I'll have to look at the comments soon.

"27 Weirdly Hilarious Things Sleep-Deprived Moms Have Done" at Buzzfeed - My friend Meghan shared this on Facebook and it amde me laugh quite a lot. Especially since Meghan added that she once tried to change her husbands diaper in the middle of the night because she thought he was the baby.

What do you think?  If I do log my reading, how exact should I be? I'm sure there were some other things I read, but these were the main ones. And hey, I'm not actually done reading for the day yet, because I'll definitely do a chapter of Numbers before I hit the hay. Was this fun? Would you like to hear about what I read for a week?

Friday, April 29, 2016

Animal Bites books by Animal Planet

Hello, non-fiction fans!

Today I will be reviewing a couple of the Animal Bites books published by Animal Planet.

First some quick stats: both of these books are by Laaren Brown. Both are 80 pages long, including all the backmatter. Both are nice big books, measuring just over 8 inches wide and 11 inches high.

Now, why do I mention how big they are? It's because my favorite thing about these books was the large photo illustrations. Some charts and collages are included in the book, but I'd say the average page has a nice big photo of an animal on it, and other photos and facts spread around the page.

My least favorite thing about these books would have to be that I felt they were kind of scattered. What I mean is they contained lots of interesting facts, but I didn't feel like I became more of an expert by reading these books. Obviously these are non-narrative books. So it's unfair for me to say that they didn't engage me in a story. But I also feel like they weren't structured in a way that I could even remember what I had read.

I dug deeper into this feeling, because I really wanted to like these books! They are beautiful, and I received a copy of each one from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review. Here's what bothered me, that I could put my finger on.

I found the page headings to be remarkably unhelpful. "Doctor in the house" is the heading for the page about powder blue surgeonfish.  "Letting off steam" heads a page about Hydrothermal vents. It seems to me that English idioms are serving where descriptive titles would serve better.

A particularly ambiguous sidebar in the ocean animals book annoyed me. It poses the question, "Bottom-dwelling bud?" next to an anglerfish, and has check boxes for yes and no. No is marked. I was confused. Anglerfish are definitely bottom dwellers. I read the explanation to the side, "An anglerfish may look alluring, but it's just trying to find some food to eat." I didn't really know what to make of this. Apparently the question being posed was not, "Is this a bottom dwelling animal?" but "Would this animal make a good friend for you?" And that seems like definitely the less useful question to go after. Why are we even bothering with that question?

On the next page found the text uninspiring. We are presented with six snapshots of underwater animals, and this is the text we get:
Weird and cool
There are thousands of varieties of fish and ocean creatures. Some look cool, some look weird and some look just a little scary. 
Hmm. So when I look at these pictures, am I supposed to be classifying them as either weird, cool or scary? That seems like a really subjective and pretty pointless exercise. This text doesn't draw my attention to anything specific about the picturesit doesn't encourage me to closer observation. This text doesn't add anything to my knowledge about these picturesI don't feel any more educated than I was before. I'm guessing that a Dumbo Octopus is significantly larger than a Fringeback Nudibranch. But I don't know that, and they're both presented to me in a 2.5 inch square image.

Who would I recommend these books to? I would recommend them to families that mostly just want good, big pictures of animals. There were some really cool and interesting pictures in them. I would not recommend these books for their writing. I confess (and you can probably tell from my review above) that I just enjoyed the pictures in the polar animals book and didn't look too closely at the words, once I could see they were the same caliber.

What other non-fiction books do I recommend? Check out the narrative non-fiction roundup I did back in March. Also, check out National Geographic Readers.

If you'd like to shop these books or read more reviews, here are some links:

Levi likes the National Geographic Kids series a lot, and has decided to collect them. They're definitely simpler, shorter (32 pages) and smaller (9''x5'') than the Animal Planet books, but I prefer them.

Do your kids get picky about the non-fiction they read? What are the favorite animal books in your house?

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

"Never Let ____ Become More Important Than ____"

Hi, everybody!

Wow, what a week. As you know, when the blog goes quiet, there's a lot happening in my life. In the past week both Jacob and I had some big church responsibilities: he organized a chili cookoff and I helped with New Beginnings, a special night for the young women I work with. Jacob also had a choir concert. I'm happy to report that all these things went well! In fact, all of them went better than I thought they would. There was a good turnout at the chili cookoff, the New Beginnings program was beautiful, and the children were remarkably well behaved at the concert.

What have you been up to lately? I'd love to hear.

I spoke for a few minutes at our New Beginnings night, and this quote from President Thomas S. Monson is part of what I shared. I am finding it to be wonderfully applicable in my life. When it comes into my mind, I get good perspective on what is important.

If you were going to fill in the blanks, what would you say?

"Never let ____ become more important than ____."

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The Best Movie I've Seen in a Long Time


My goodness it has been a busy day. But I just wanted to pop in here really quick and tell you that our family loved The Peanuts Movie! Loved it. I think I might buy it, actually. And that's saying something because I think the last movie I bought was . . . The Lego Movie? And that one I technically bought as a birthday gift for Benjamin, without even having seen it. So it doesn't count in the "movies I like so much that I bought them" category.

Jubilee, as a peanuts character.

Sidenote: I wanted to see The Peanuts Movie back when it was in theaters, but I guess I'm just too cheap to buy movie tickets. I wasn't too cheap to try out the Peanuts character creation tool that was floating around my Facebook at the time though. Above is the one Jubilee and I made of her.

Anyway, the movie made us all laugh. It was so engaging and funny to the kids that they were literally jumping up and down and laughing like loons. And that just made the movie even more enjoyable for Jacob and I.

I liked how the movie characters stayed true to the comic strip characters. It seems like that is so rare!

I liked how the movie also added something to the world of Peanuts. It connected the dots a little bit, you could say. For instance, you remember how Snoopy was always trying to sneak into school in the early strips? Well, he gets tossed out of school one morning and lands in the dumpster, where he finds a typewriter! I'm not a die-hard peanuts fanatic, so correct me if I'm wrong, but I think in the comic strip we never know how Snoopy got the typewriter, right? So that was cool, and there were a few other examples of connecting the dots that made the movie fun for me.

I think it's safe to say that the boys loved the physical humor of the movie best. And, as we all know, physical humor is a hallmark of the comic strip. Lucy and the football? Yeah. They don't run that gag until the credits, but all kinds of fun physical comedy pervades the movie and it had the kids in stitches.

Was there anything I didn't like about it? Mmm, not really. It is squeaky clean and left me smiling.

If you have enjoyed the comic strip, definitely check this one out. It's fun for kids and adults and especially for kids and adults to watch together. We rented it from Redbox, but I'm thinking once wasn't enough for me.

Seen any good movies lately?

Oh, and do you have a recommendation for which Peanuts book I should get for the fam?
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