children's literature, kids books, parenting, choosing books

5 Books We Read to Our Children

children's literature, kids books, parenting, choosing booksAs we wrap up Mr. B and Mr. C’s 4th birthday and I find myself surrounded by some new books, I thought it a good opportunity to share some of our favorite children’s books.

In my last post I mentioned that we make a very intentional effort to steer clear of shows, books, and products that contain highly commercialized characters.

How to choose high quality books for your family is topic for a different day, but for now I’ll say we have a few reasons for avoiding licensed characters:

-Children spend more time on creativity and imaginative play when books or toys are not highly based on media characters

-Many toys and books with characters are designed in partnership with companies interested in selling other products

-Chris and I get a kick out of reading stories and books by original, inventive, inspiring authors and illustrators and that excitement is contagious.

We think that your family will get as much of a kick out of these books as we do.

1) First up, The Book With No Pictures by B. J. Novak @bjnovak

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This is a hilarious book sure to prompt many giggles (and many re-readings).  This book was originally given to us by the boys Aunt April & Uncle Burke.

The story is, as promised, completely free of any pictures, just page after page of colorful words.  The words are written exactly as a kid would want an adult to talk.  “My only friend in the whole wide world is a hippo named Boo Boo Butt.”

Novak: “The books I loved as a child all had one thing in common: They were very fundamentally on the side of the kid.” This quote is courtesy of interview found here

The book is written with page breaks, font sizes and word placement all aimed at helping the parent or reader with comedic timing.

Your kids will love this one.

2) Mix It Up by Herve Tullet @HTullet

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My sister April and her husband Burke sent this one over as well.  We are huge fans of Herve Tullet and his other picture books Press Here as well as Help! We Need a Title.

While Press Here is geared more towards children 2-4, Mix it Up seems to appeal to a bit older group ready to learn about color creation and mixing colors.

The boys love to shake, rub, press and smash the book per the author’s instructions and see the resulting color combinations.

3) Zoom by Istvan Banyai

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I found this gem back in my elementary school teaching days.  The opposite of The Book With No Pictures, Zoom is only pictures.

The book keeps you guessing as it “zooms” out or “zooms” in (if you choose to read it backwards).

I love watching the boys try to remember what is coming on the next page.  This book has great illustrations and is great for teaching sequencing.

The book is also a subtle nod to the limitations we have based on our own perspectives and personal vision.

4) Fortunately by Remy Charlip

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Fortunately is another book I happened upon while teaching 2nd grade one day.

This book follows the main character Ned, a quirky fellow, through a rather hapless adventure.  The book is perfect for teaching predicting, problem solving, and resourcefulness.

The story is funny and always makes us laugh no matter how many times we read it.

5) Spoon by Amy Krouse Rosenthal @missamykr

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Spoon is another one that we enjoy reading again and again because of great illustrations and clever humor.

The story’s main character thinks everyone else lives more useful and exciting lives.

It’s a simple story that can help children to recognize self-worth and how to deal with feelings of envy or jealousy.



3 Simple Tips to Improve Any Holiday Event

2 Simple Tips to Improve Any Holiday Event

3 Simple Tips to Improve Any Holiday EventEvery Autumn for the past 4 years, Sarah and I have loaded up Mister B. and Mister C. and made a 45 minute drive to a pumpkin farm.

Our most recent (and most enjoyable) visit was this past weekend.

Perhaps your superb family does something similar around the holidays, be it a trip to the Christmas tree farm, a drive to the local farmers market to choose the most beautiful butternut squash, or a walk down the block to attend a holiday gathering of friends or family.

This was the first year that the boys were possessed of enough autonomy to allow me to actually observe my surroundings with something approaching a presence of mind.

No matter your particular holiday event, I have gathered some observations from my most recent (and most enjoyable) visit to the pumpkin farm that will hopefully save you from one or two highly preventable pangs of regret this holiday season.

These observations are hot off the press of the 2014 holiday season, ripped from bald reality, undiluted and unvarnished.

It is my hope that putting these tips into practice will make your holiday events approximately one jillion times more enjoyable.


1. Pick Your Shots, Annie Leibovitz

How many really good pictures will be enough for you to consider this event “documented appropriately?”

I encourage you to ask yourself this question on your way to the holiday event.

Are ten enough? Are twenty? How about two-hundred?

Your answer to this question will be less important than asking the question itself. Hopefully it will remind you that some limitation on the amount of pictures you take is necessary for you to actually be present and enjoy the event.

Based on my informal observations at the pumpkin farm, no parents took this thought into consideration at all.

Every corner of the farm was a bloodbath of snapping camera phones; shots ringing out ceaselessly from around every hay bale, scarecrow and decorative pumpkin cluster.

Each child’s most disinterested pose was photographed 15 times from multiple angles. Each child was treated with the same level of photographic coverage as Prince George.

I experienced this modern phenomenon of being the subject of paparazzi-level photographic attention in a rare first-hand glimpse as I rode with Mr. B in a hollowed-out barrel attached to a tractor.

Each parent who didn’t ride with their child actually walked along beside this slow-moving train of hollowed out barrels, calling out incessantly to their child to look up for a picture and snapping picture after picture regardless of compliance.

At one point there were 10 people annoyingly brandishing cameras ten feet from my face and calling out loudly to their children.

This, I thought, is the downside of fame with none of the upside.

Though distracting, unnecessary and pointless, perhaps the worst aspect of this unrestrained photography will be the day yet to come.

The day that is coming in a week, or a month, when the memory limit of the device is reached and these poor parents have to face a night of blundering thorough possibly hundreds of badly composed, redundant digital photos in an effort to return some modicum of functionality to their camera.

How many will banish the whole bunch of photos into some folder, never to be seen again? How many will face the prospect of sifting through the trash to find a few golden treasures with a sense of dread and anxiety?

Put your photo habits on a diet now so that when you arrive at your holiday event you will already have some established habits in place to help curb overindulgence.


2. We’re In This Together

On some level, every parent at these holiday events is in a process of just trying to get through the thing all in one piece.

As I mentioned above, this is the first year that I have felt I had even a few extra megabits of bandwidth to offer somebody else.

But in some, ways, I believe that that makes it my duty to offer whatever help I can to those poor first time parents.

The ones who have braved the process of dressing the newborn in a Halloween dress, loading the family in the car, stopping halfway to the event to triage a diaper failure, waiting in the line for tickets upon arrival, waiting in the line for the hay ride, then braving the newborn screaming through the whole hayride.

It’s our duty, for those parents with children of a relatively manageable age, to do whatever we can for those poor parents who brought their baby triplets to the pumpkin farm.

If it’s to say hello and offer to take a picture of their family, we must do that. If it’s to make funny faces at a newborn until it becomes distracted enough to lapse into a temporary silence, then I must remember what it was like for me when Mr. B and Mr. C were that age and deliver a distraction to that newborn as skillfully and enthusiastically as I am able to under the circumstances.

If you are one of these poor parents, have the courage to ask the parent of the teen girl at the Christmas tree lot to hold your baby for a moment so that you can clean the puke off of your blouse.

That parent of the teenager survived the baby toddler and is now neck-deep in a world of hurt she could never have imagined possible when her teenage daughter was small.

Holding your pukey baby for 1o minutes might literally be the best thing that happens to her all day.

In Conclusion

Stop at 10 pictures and lend help to your fellow parent whenever possible.

How much better would everyone’s holiday events be if everyone put these tips into practice this holiday season?

My admittedly unscientific answer is, a jillion times better.

4 Ways to Create Time & Sanity Without Using a Glowing Screen

time management, time, parentingDo you wish you had more time in your day?  Have you ever wanted to have more energy at the end of your day so that you could enjoy some peaceful family time?

I was going to title this post something about “saving time” or “managing time”, but really, the thing I hear most from parents and myself is wishing that we could have more hours in the day.

I know how it is to feel pooped after a tiring day of work and to feel out of patience by the time you return home to your family.  I also know what it’s like to be a stay-at-home mom and to feel like I am digging deep (like my volleyball coach used to say!) in order to find the energy and persistence to be the best mom I can be.

I have twin boys who are almost 4 and in my time raising them I have experimented with many techniques in order to make my life easier and our family time more enjoyable.

When you have twins, you have to find efficiencies and tricks or you risk losing your mind.

Warning: These are not for the faint of heart.  Some of these require a great deal of delayed gratification.

You can think of it like letting your toddler hold the fork those first few times – you deal with mess after mess knowing that, in the end, he’ll be able to feed himself, and that will free your hands to actually be able to eat your own meal.

With some of these you might ask yourself “how is this going to create more time for me?”  And my answer is this:

Most of these serve to eliminate whining, pleading, melt-downs, stress and overwhelm (for both the parents and the kids).  Less frustration and aggravation lead to more calm, more harmony, and therefore more headspace and availability for quality family time.  (One of the tips is just a pure time saver though!)

I am sharing these tips here for the first time.  They have been a big hit with a few close friends, as well as complete strangers in the grocery store.

1. Lie at the check-out line check-out line, parenting, grocery store tips and tricks

I know, I know.  Lying to your children.  For shame.

When I was about ten years old we moved into a new house just north of Dallas, TX.  As our moving van was unloading, the lawn man came by to spray the dirt yard with mulch.  I watched intently and asked my dad, “What is that green stuff they are spraying?”

“It’s to grow grass,” my dad said.  “You know what it’s made of?”

“No,” I said.

“Money,” he answered.

And I believed that until I was about 28 years old.

Shredded up money makes grass grow!  Who knew?!

I’m sure you have a similar story and that you turned out fine.

Here’s the story to tell your kids in the check-out line:

Child: “Mom, I want (insert any annoying item at the check-out line)”

You: “Honey, none of that is for sale.  These are just on display. The store is just showing you what they have.”

Now, in order for this to work a) you probably have to start them young and b) you have to be committed to never buying anything from the check-out line when you’re with them.  Ever.

It’s been 4 years and I have never bought anything in the check-out line while the boys were with me.

It took consistency, but we walk through check-out lines as if there is nothing there but a conveyor belt and a cashier.  I leave the store feeling (relatively) calm and ready to do something else with them, instead of leaving feeling flustered and rushed and angry that they threw tantrums in the check-out line.

Lovey at first sight2. Lovies don’t leave the car

Mr. C’s lovey that he has to sleep with at night and take on car rides is a sweet little doggie that some friends of my in-laws gave him.  Mr. B’s lovey is a monkey.

After listening to my friends bemoan the constant hide ‘n seek relationship they have with their kids’ blankets, doggies, sheep, what-have-you I decide that our lovies don’t leave the car.  They can come on the car ride, but they don’t leave the car.

They don’t come into the restaurant, the store, the playground, the church, or friends houses…they stay in the car and “protect the car.”  (From what? I don’t know, but that’s what we’ve always told them.)

The only exception is when we go to the grandparent’s house and the boys are going to be napping there or spending the night.  In that case, Chris or I put the lovies in the bed they’ll be napping in and they stay right there until naptime.

Which brings us to number three…

3. Keep a back up lovey in the closet

If you have children you’re probably already clued-in to this one.

I’ll be honest; it was super easy for us to have an extra lovey for each boy on hand since we were given 2 monkeys and 2 doggies as gifts (people like to give ‘paired’ gifts to twin babies).

We are lucky that our boys chose opposite lovies because now we have a spare one of each in case one must be washed or gets lost for an extended period of time.

We keep them up high in our closet and try to bring them into rotation whenever possible so that they wear equally (though we haven’t been super consistent with that).

4. Avoid products with highly commercialized characters

This serves to short-circuit any meltdowns about wanting the backpack with Spiderman on it, or the pajamas with Dora on the front.

Our basic philosophy has been to disallow TV shows, games, books or toys into our boy’s lives that contain highly commercialized characters.

If your kids don’t get conditioned to these characters, it turns out they don’t really care about if Dora is on their pajamas or not.

You don’t have to go to 5 stores looking for that one backpack.  You don’t have to listen to meltdowns when you can’t afford to buy the Superman underwear.

In Conclusion

So after you’ve put these tips in place, what does the lack of whining, complaining and melting down add up to?

Less stress, frustration and parenting fatigue and more quality time and happiness with your family.

What is it worth to you to have a little more peace around the house and in your own head?

For me, it’s been minimal effort up-front that is paying off huge rewards today.

(Full disclosure: There is one extra Bonus tip in the newsletter for our newsletter subscribers only, and it’s one of my favorites!  Be sure to subscribe now in the box below to get this members-only tip!)

Our New Product

“After nourishment, shelter and_optSince we launched the Parents Who website, people have been asking us the same question:

“When are you going to launch your first parenting product?”

Well, we finally have a response besides “We’re not sure.”

We’re very happy to announce today that the final countdown to the launch of our first product, Imagining Aloud has begun!

We’re excited to offer a product like Imagining Aloud, which will enhance your quality family time every single week.


What Is Imagining Aloud?


1. High-Quality, All-Original Family Audio Stories

Picture yourself returning home after a busy day at work.

After dinner has been cooked and eaten and the dishes are done, now is your short window of opportunity to spend quality time with your family before bedtime.

That’s when you remember that the latest episode of Imagining Aloud has arrived today.

So you all snuggle up together on the couch and listen to the latest episode.

The audio story delivers unique characters, engaging sound effects and music, hilarious surprises and heartwarming moments.

Your child is engrossed in the transformative power of storytelling and words while enjoying a story containing warmth, humor, universal human values and memorable characters.

When the story ends the talking begins. Your child tells you his favorite character from the story and you spend time discussing the lesson that character learned.

The quality time you have spent listening, laughing and talking with your family over an Imagining Aloud audio story, you reflect, has been one of the best parts of your day.


2. A Tool to Grow Your Child’s Creativity and Imagination

The citizens of the future who will earn the most income, freedom, security and success will be those who will possess and will effectively harness the highest quotients of creativity.

For better or worse, the rise of automation and the disruptive power of the World Wide Web have changed the face of the world economy forever.

Many industries are currently in the process of vanishing, while even careers in the professions of law, medicine and architecture are predicted to be at risk in the coming decades.

Giving your child the tools to expand and enrich their imagination today is more important to their future than ever before.

It’s well understood by the scientific community that reading to your child just 15 minutes per day  has been shown to dramatically empower children who are entering kindergarten.

But only about 48% of children in America today are read to for at least 15 minutes per day.

With Imagining Aloud, even the busiest parent will have a solution to ensure that their child’s creativity blossoms and imagination blooms as they listen and build the world of the story in their mind.


What Isn’t Imagining Aloud?


1. No Screen Time Required

Audio stories are a screen-free, guilt-free way to activate your child’s imagination while you prepare dinner, commute to the playground or spend a few minutes taking care of yourself.

It’s well known by now the adverse effects that too much time spent in front of screens have on young children.

Quality family time spent staring at screens, whether watching something at the same time together or not, often prevents conversation, sharing, learning, teaching and social interaction.

But with Imagining Aloud your family will remain present with each other during quality family time. All will be entertained and meaningful familial interaction is promoted, not inhibited.


2. No Commercial or Advertising Content

In 2004 the advertising industry spent 12 billion dollars on ads targeted to children.

Many ‘free’ and ‘educational’ children’s iPad apps are subsidized by in-app advertising, potentially exposing your child to dozens of hours of additional advertising each week.

These ads are training the next generation to continue consuming more and more, despite the negative consequences of overconsumption.

Imagining Aloud stories will never contain advertising or commercialized content of any kind.

Our commitment to your family is that Imagining Aloud audio stories will never, ever contain advertising content. 


How Do I Sign Up?

We will be announcing our launch date very soon!

For those interested in getting the latest updates and info about Imagining Aloud, sign up to our newsletter in the box below or in the sidebar to the right.

Newsletter subscribers will be the first to find out details about the upcoming launch, as well as get the first chance to hear a sample of an Imagining Aloud episode.

Meanwhile, don’t forget that your opinion matters to us.

Please write a comment below to tell us what you would like to see as part of a family entertainment product like Imagining Aloud.

How to Organize All Your Photos & Videos in 3 Days or Less: Day 2

(This is Part II of a two part series on organizing all of your photos and videos.  For Part I, please click here.)

tl sign up for free buttonHopefully you’ve been feeling good about your start to organizing your photos.

Today we get to start adding (or uploading) photos to your library.

This will allow us to have all your photos from Facebook, Instagram, Flickr, etc… as well as all the photos from your computer, external hard drive, jump drives, etc… all in one place.

And not just in one place, but accessible from your phone, computer or tablet.

Pretty incredible right?!

The first step in getting all your photos in one place is to login to your This Life account.

Click on “Add” so we can start filling up your library with photos.

photo organization, parenting, tips


Now you have a choice.  This Life can import, or add, photos from any of the highlighted locations.

photo organization, parenting, tips


We are going to start with Facebook due to its pervasiveness and popularity.

To add photos from Facebook, simply click on the Facebook tab.

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On the next screen, click “Connect to Facebook.”

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If you are already logged in to Facebook on your computer, your account information will already be filled in and all you have to do is press “Connect.”  If you are not already logged in, you’ll see a screen that looks like this where you’ll need to enter your username, password, and then click “Log in.”

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As soon as you enter your username and password, you should see your Facebook profile photo.  Click on “Okay.”

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After clicking “Okay” you should soon start to see your Facebook photos appear in the background.  These photos are being added to your library and will be sorted automatically by the date they were given in Facebook.

If you would like to continue and import photos from Instagram, Flickr, etc… just click on the application, enter your user information, click “Okay”, and the photos from those accounts will also be added to the same ThisLife library.  Almost all your photos are in one place!  Getting exciting right?!

We are going to skip adding the app to your phone for now, but you can always go back and do this step if you wish.  For now just click on “Next”














then click “Start Using ThisLife.”

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You are now on the main library page of your ThisLife account.  You should see photos from the accounts you linked, organized by date.

The last major thing we want to do to get all our photos in one place and to make it easy to always have them there, is to download the ThisLife Desktop Uploader.

To do this, click on “+Add” at the top of your screen and then “Get Desktop Uploader.”

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The Uploader should automatically begin downloading.

Once it’s downloaded, go ahead and open it and login.

Once opened, you’ll begin to see how easy it will be going forward to have all your photos and videos automatically upload.

From the uploader you can drag and drop any files from your computer that you want imported to your library.  You can also set your preferences to have ThisLife automatically upload your photos and videos from iPhoto, external devices or any folder you choose.

This way you don’t have to remember to update your library.  All your photos will be in your library anytime and every time you want to use them.

Part III of our photo organization series will cover how to organize your photos for easier searching, how to share “stories” with family members and let them add photos of their own, and how to create photo products (think Christmas!).

If you would like the inside scoop on these tips and tricks, be sure to subscribe to our newsletter as part III will be exclusive to our newsletter subscribers.  Just enter your email below and next week you’ll get the ThisLife inside tips delivered straight to your inbox!

Happy organizing!