Monthly Archives: May 2013

Eleven Book Series for Young Readers


You can’t deny that there’s something satisfying about a good stand-alone book.  By the time you’ve finished reading it you (usually) have a sense of closure for the characters and for yourself. That being said, I’m still a sucker for a good book series and apparently I’ve passed that on to my children. Here are a few of our favorites along with a brief description written by my older children (ages 6 & 8):

Magic Tree House (Grade Level 1-3) – A brother and a sister named Jack and Annie found a magic treehouse. When every book starts they go to the treehouse and they wish to go somewhere. Then the treehouse starts spinning and spinning and then when they get wherever they are going the spinning stops. Sometimes they go to Egypt, a castle, the Amazon, dinosaur times, or Hawaii. While they are there they learn new things.

Ivy + Bean (Grade Level 2-3) – These are stories about two girls who go on adventures. Bean is funny and sometimes doesn’t pay attention. Ivy is smart and quiet. They are best friends.

Nancy Clancy (Grade Level 3) – Nancy Clancy is Fancy Nancy but she grew up. She is a detective with her best friend Bree. I like these books because they have fancy words.

Flat Stanley (Grade Level 3) – Stanley got flat when a big board fell on him. Then he was flat and could go under doors. He could also get in an envelope and then he could go on fun adventures.

Roscoe Riley Rules (Grade Level 3) – This boy Roscoe doesn’t mean to break the rules, but he forgets.

Humphrey books (Grade Level 3-4) – It’s about a classroom hamster in Room 26 at Longfellow School. Humphrey stays in his cage during the day but when nobody is there he has some freedom. When he gets out he solves classroom problems and sometimes he goes on missions.

Ramona books (Grade Level 3-5) – These books are about a girl named Ramona. She has a sister named Beezus. Ramona is wild and gets in trouble a lot.

Little House books (Grade Level 3-5) – I love reading about Mary and Laura living in different places a long time ago. They lived in the woods, on the prairie, and a dugout.

Pippi Longstocking (Grade Level 4-5) – Silly Pippi lives by herself. She has a monkey and a horse. She tells stories that I don’t know if they are true or not true but they are funny!

American Girl historical fiction books (Grade Level 4-5) – There are a lot of American Girl doll books. Every American Girl doll has some books about her and the books tell all about how she lived.

Narnia books (Grade Level 5-6) – All about 4 brothers and sisters who discovered a magic world called Narnia. There was a witch who turned things to stone. There was a lion. A lot of stuff happened there that couldn’t happen for real like animals talking.


We’re looking for some new series to start as well! We have a few on hand already: The 39 Clues, Boxcar Children, Nancy Drew, Encyclopedia Brown, Series of Unfortunate Events, How to Train Your Dragon, Anne of Green Gables. What other book series do your tiny humans love?


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Sparkly journals showed up on my doorstep and my heart went BOOM!

Earlier in the week my 6 year old lost her second tooth. She’d been wiggling it for weeks and then her sister tripped and knocked the little sucker out. (The tooth, not Lydia!) She came running to me with a grinning bloody mouth. We cleaned her up and washed off the tooth, she pulled out her little tooth box, and I put it up high so no one would touch it until bedtime. All day long she hemmed and hawed on what to write to the tooth fairy. She wanted to leave a note but couldn’t figure out what to say.

Before bed they watched a little bit of one of the TinkerBell movies – the one where the dad studies butterflies and gives the girl a journal to record facts. She fills the book with pictures of fairies, which are real but her dad doesn’t believe her. So at the last second, Lydia scrambled for a pencil and paper and wrote this:
8761078033_ce3abac7f0_oIn case you can’t see it, it says:

Dear Toothfairy,
Hope you are getting pretty teeth! Could I please have another golden doller? I’v alwaz wished to have a jornol of my own that I cold draw all the fairies in. I bet your pixedust will glitter as you fly around the room. 

She tucked the tooth box and note under her pillow and went to sleep. I tiptoed into the room with the golden dollar and a stack of towels that I could claim to be putting away if I got caught in action. I thought I made a smooth transition but as I was leaving I heard a cough and when I closed the door I heard movement. Drats! A little while later I came back in with the same towels to put them away (read: check and see who was moving around) and I found her big brother (who is 8) with eyes squeezed tight.

“Hey. Whatcha doin, buddy? It’s late.”
“I was just checking to see if the tooth fairy had come.”
“She did.”
“Did you see her?”
“Nope. I thought Daddy came in the room, but I guess I was dreaming.”

I know he’s at the point where he’s figured it out, but he also hasn’t quite let go of believing. I’m okay with that. I tucked him back in and said goodnight. I couldn’t resist taking one more look in on them before I went to bed. And since he was asleep, I couldn’t stop myself from tossing around a little pixie dust (gold glitter that I had in my craft supplies) to hopefully help him keep the magic alive a little longer.

She squealed with delight over the gold dollar and the pixie dust – some even stuck to her very own cheek! – and rushed into my bedroom the next morning but wondered where the journal could be. We decided that journals were too heavy for such a tiny fairy to lug around.

Then today I opened the front door and on my doorstep was a box addressed to my girl. It rattled a bit and I read the return address: Opal the Fairy. Opal the Fairy happens to live in the same city – the same house actually – as one of my friends I met online several years ago. She has the kindest spirit and the most beautiful family.


There were journals, pens, and a note…as well as a giant smile in my girl’s face. She read the note aloud to us.
It said:

Dear Lydia, 
My Name is Opal.

I am a fairy. I live next door to the Tooth Fairy (she is my best friend)!

This morning we were having tea and cookies together. She told me about the letter you left her with you tooth.

Guess what? I collect journals!
I knew that I had to send you one in the mail! I don’t fly very well right now because I have a sore wing. (I wasn’t watching where I was flying! Oops!)

Keep the fairies in your heart forever. You will always been in mine!


And then I had to blink away the tears.

As I was leaving the room I heard her say to Carter, “See? I told you fairies were real!”

I hope they always will be for her, because they are for me. But now instead of little flying pixies, it’s internet fairies who send gifts to my children and angels who hold the door when I’m struggling to get all the kids inside or who stop and smile at me when I have multiple children melting down in the grocery store check out line.

“Do you believe in fairies? Say quick that you believe. If you believe, clap your hands!”
~Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie

To Be Loved {music review}

Before we had kids, I spent a lot of time going to movies. Marshall was at school or studying all.the.time. and I found out that I could go to the movies on Tuesdays for $5 including a giant drink and popcorn. For $7.50, I could see two movies. (They don’t offer that any more, by the way. How sad.) And once I’d seen everything at the regular theater, I’d hit up the cheap theater for movies I’d missed or wanted to see again.  Despite how much I love Debra Messing, I’d somehow missed “The Wedding Date” (which is a cheesy but adorable movie, by the way) and I vividly remember sitting in the cheap theater, grinning like a fool at the final scenes when “Save the Last Dance for Me” started playing. I immediately fell in love with that smooth, cool voice. I just had to find out who was singing that song! This was before I had a smart phone, but I rushed home and searched. It was also before I bought music online, and the next morning I went to the store and bought my first Bublé album. I was hooked.

It didn’t take long for me to get Marshall’s toes tapping along to the album, and we’ve been big fans since. This past Christmas we DVRed the Bublé Christmas special on TV and all six of us sat down and watched it together. A few weeks later we were on vacation in a mountain chalet. They had a handful of CDs available and one of them was Bublé’s 2009 album. While we were cooking dinner one night, Marshall started dancing with the baby and singing along. (If you know Marsh, that’s not his usual style). Marshall’s a good singer, but I didn’t expect him to hit that high note in “You’re Nobody Till Somebody Loves You”. And then a few weeks ago I shared this video on Facebook and all my Bublé-fan friends fell even more in love with Michael Bublé than they already were. I mean, how could you not? (Okay, so his good looks don’t hurt either).


So when the opportunity came to review his new album, I was the first to sign up! I downloaded it immediately and we hopped in the car on the way to the beach. Here’s the thing. I’m a car singer. Like a really loud and active car singer. And listening to a new CD is usually hard for me because I’m loving it, but I don’t know the words yet! But this album? It’s got some really great songs you probably already know sprinkled throughout: “You Make Me Feel So Young”, “To Love Somebody”, “Come Dance With Me”, “Have I Told You Lately That I Love You” (which is different, but good), and even the title track “To Be Loved”.

I loved all the songs, but the overwhelming favorite from the 8 & under crowd was “You’ve Got A Friend In Me”. I think we can attribute that to Toy Story!  The song that surprised me the most is the duet with Reece Witherspoon. She’s adorable and her sweet voice complements Michael’s so well! It quickly became one of my personal favorites. But I think my absolute favorite is “Close Your Eyes” (because I’m a giant cheeseball).

You just can’t go wrong with this album.
I dare you to listen to it and not smile and maybe even dance a little.
You can download Michael’s album “To Be Loved” on iTunes or Amazon.

Disclaimer: I participated in this campaign for One2One Network.
I received a free copy of the album to review.
By posting, I am eligible for incentives.
All opinions are, as always, 100% my very own.

The Only Constant is Change

“Some things never change,” I said, laughing with a life-long friend. We were talking about things I’d done as a child, how spunky I could be. And as much as I can still act like that feisty little girl sometimes, I’m not her any more. There’s so much more to who I am (literally and figuratively, I suppose). Sure, I can still be pretty spunky in the right circumstances, and I certainly have been known to throw an epic temper tantrum or two. But I haven’t thrown myself on the floor in a middle of an aisle in Target in a fit of rage…yet. (I may have wanted to, but I didn’t.)

I have been doing a good bit of introspection lately, though, and it may sound conceited to say this but I’m going to say it anyway: I really like the person I am right now, this person I’ve worked pretty darn hard to cultivate. I’m amazed at how much I’ve grown and changed over the past few years. Somewhere along the way I managed to move from pretending to be an adult to actually being one. It’s weird, that. (Or maybe it’s just me. I don’t know.) 

But even though I really like NowBridget, I sometimes still struggle. Being an adult is hard. And it’s nothing like you expect it to be, is it? I can eat cake for dinner if I want to (which is awesome, I assure you) but I also have to wrap my still tiny little brain around some great big issues, ones that I never could have dreamed of as a child. I wrestle with my wants, beliefs, morals. Things that were once seemingly concrete simply aren’t anymore. I feel nudges in my heart that can only be divine. Yet as I stand on the edge of doing what my heart calls me to do, I never fail to get nervous. My heart starts racing. My voice wobbles. Tears puddle on my lashes. My body tells me to cut and run, but my heart says, “Stay! Stay! Stay!  It won’t be easy, but stay!” Sometimes staying is harder than going, but it’s worth it in the end. Because staying means facing my demons. Staying means asking the hard questions. Staying means looking for answers, even if I don’t always like what I discover. And it’s in these moments – these moments when I feel stuck – that I strain to sift through wrong and right, good and bad. And those moments? The ones that send me searching, grasping for truth? Are the moments that truly define who I am, who I will be.

And as much as I like NowBridget, I hope she doesn’t stay around for too long. Because if there is no change, there is also no growth, no learning, nothing new. I hope that BridgetToBe will look back at NowBridget and be proud of her for stepping out when it would have been easier to stay in line. I hope BridgetToBe will be proud of NowBridget for pushing herself to dig deep and ask why and actually be open to responses, even those she might have a hard time swallowing. But mostly I hope BridgetToBe will look back and say: You tried hard. And even though you stumbled a time or two, you didn’t trip anybody else up. You held hands and wiped tears. You listened more than you talked. And you gave more than you took. You didn’t look down at some and up at others. You just saw what needed to be done, and you did it. You loved when it was hard to love, and forgave when it was hard to forgive. You opened your heart and your head to different ideas, beliefs, and standards and rejected a one-size-fits-all faith. You got hurt a little along the way, but you handled it with grace. You fought the good fight, and you kept your faith – even if it didn’t look like what you thought it would.


Ivey League Learning: Apps for Toddlers

So far this week I’ve told you about the apps that I use with my big kids for school.
But I can’t leave out my littler humans, can I?
Here are a few of the faves for our 4 and under crowd:

Screen Shot 2013-05-09 at 2.12.34 AM
Shape Builder Lite
(Free) or Shape Builder ($0.99)- A fun puzzle app. After you assemble the whole picture, it both writes and speaks the word. If I can’t find the two year old, she’s probably hiding in a corner of my bedroom with her sister’s ipod and playing this game. We have the free version.

Shape Puzzle
(Free) – Another puzzle app with animal shapes. 

Mickey’s Road Rally (Free)- We love Disney at our house and got the Mickey’s Road Rally a while back and it’s still a favorite. While I was writing this, I discovered that you can now only get it as part of the Disney Junior Appisodes Package, which is FREE! 

Endless Alphabet* (Free**) – This is the overall favorite app for all of my kids. And, admittedly, I kinda sorta like it as well. You move the letters around into the correct spot and as you move each one it makes it’s own sound. Once you have all of the letters in place, it acts out the word. Not only do you have letter recognition and letter sounds, but also vocabulary. And these aren’t words like CAT or DOG, but words like BELCH (the one I hear most often) and GARGANTUAN. When they hear the music start up, they all flock to the ipad.  Screen Shot 2013-05-09 at 2.14.21 AM

Rocket Speller* (Free) – This app is similar to Endless Alphabet, but with a completely different word set. There are levels and as you complete stages, you get to build rockets. 

Toca Doctor ($2.99)- This app is far from scientifically accurate, but still a lot of fun! Clean up a scraped knee and put on a bandage, help a bloody nose stop bleeding, put cogs in the brain to make it work. I originally got this app when I was free for a limited time, but my kids love it enough that I would pay $2.99. 


*I also mentioned this for the big kids, but wanted to list them again because all of my kids really love them and have learned a lot!

**When this post was originally published this app was free. It is no longer free.

Previous App Posts: Apps for English Language ArtsApps for Math, Science, and Social StudiesSpacial Thinking AppsJust For Fun Apps

Ivey League Learning: Just For Fun Apps

So far this week I’ve focused on education apps, but we have a few just for fun apps that we like, too.

Angry Birds Star Wars ($2.99) – Pure family fun. Every single person in our family has played this game. The kids will take turns trying to beat a level. I’m a little bit of a meanie because I won’t let them play it on my phone. That’s my game! 🙂

Screen Shot 2013-05-09 at 2.21.15 AM

LEGO Friends (Free) – My 6 year old daughter loves this game. It seems simple and boring to me, but she loves it. It was also a great marketing tool because she learned the names of all the LEGO girls. Well played, LEGO. Well played. (I honestly don’t mind. LEGOs are my favorite toys and I don’t mind buying more. 🙂 )

Temple Run: BRAVE ($0.99) – Temple Run plus Disney’s Merida? Win-win! Run, jump, catch coins. It’s just your basic video game, but with Merida!

Tap the Frog (Free with paid upgrade available) – I admit it. This one is addictive. The little kids can’t do this one very well at all, but the big kids do enjoy it. I probably like it the most though.

Screen Shot 2013-05-09 at 2.22.22 AM Talking Ben (Free) – We started with Talking Tom. When Asa was a baby he would laugh and laugh and laugh at Talking Tom. He accidentally got erased from the ipod and was replaced with this funny pup. He copies you and will do several silly things if you poke or tickle him. You can also help him mix up some potions.



Jake & the Neverland Pirate School (Free) – The little kids really like this one, but the big kids like it some as well. You complete tasks in your pirate training school taught by Jake, Izzy, and Cubby!

Previous App Posts: Apps for English Language ArtsApps for Math, Science, and Social StudiesSpacial Thinking Apps
Coming Up Tomorrow: Apps for Toddlers

Ivey League Learning: Spacial Thinking Apps

Another set of our favorite apps for you today! These are the kind of games that the kids don’t even realize they are learning when they play.

Screen Shot 2013-05-09 at 2.27.17 AM

Jelly Car2 ($0.99) – A puzzle game where you control the track and the car. The graphics are barebones, but it’s still a fun game. My oldest really loves it. Jelly Car 3 has just been released for $1.99 and a lite version is available for free.

One Touch Draw (Free) – Connect the dots without picking up your finger. Once you’ve mastered the basic idea, new levels expose tricks to trip you up like one way streets and points that move you to a different spot!

Doodle Fit Lite (Free) – This app looks a little bit like Tetris at a glance, but the pieces aren’t falling from the top. You have to arrange the shapes given to fit in a specified area.

TanZen Lite (Free) – Similar to Doodle Fit. Arrange the pieces in the correct way to form a certain shape.

Screen Shot 2013-05-09 at 2.28.52 AM

Cut the Rope (Free or $0.99) – Cut the rope so that the pieces fall just right and let the little monster eat the candy. Makes you think about cause and effect and properties of physics.

Doodle Find (Free) – Fun little app that asks you to search for certain items in a sea of other items. It may ask you to find four doughnuts out of the 50-100 other objects in the grid.


Previous App Posts: English Language ArtsMath, Science, and Social Studies
Coming Up Tomorrow: Just for Fun Apps
Later This Week: Apps for Toddlers

Ivey League Learning: Apps for Math, Science, and Social Studies

Yesterday I talked about the ELA apps that we love. Today I have Math, Science, and Social Studies apps that we use with our preschool and elementary children.

Screen Shot 2013-05-09 at 2.33.59 AMSky View Lite (Free) & Sky View ($1.99) – This app is really cool. You point your device towards the sky and it can tell you which stars or planets you are seeing. It can show you where the sun and moon are at any given moment and what time it will rise or set. The paid version gives many more options and info about the stars and other objects that you can see, including Hubble and the International Space Station.



Sushi Monster (Free) – Designed to meet common core standards, this app focuses on addition and multiplication facts. Use speed and accuracy to feed the hungry monster.

Splash Math ($9.99) – Each Splash Math app is designed for a different grade level. It is also aligned with common core standards. Students answer questions and get to build an aquarium bit by bit as an incentive.  You do have to purchase each grade level separately, which can add up quickly, but I was pleased with the content and my kids like it. Each app is equivalent to one year’s worth of math worksheets. I believe there may be free trial versions for each level.   Kindergarten*   First Grade   Second Grade   Third Grade   Fourth Grade*   Fifth Grade*
*K is a little different because it is designed with jungle animals instead of marine life. Fourth and Fifth Grade apps are outer space based.

Math Ninja ($1.99) – You play the part of a ninja and you are trying to protect your math treasure from Tomato-San and his robot army. Sounds crazy but we blew through the free trial version quickly and the kids begged for the full version. Screen Shot 2013-05-09 at 2.31.55 AM

Bobo & Light ($4.99) – We have all learned so much from this science app! It’s fun and interactive and tells about lots of unique and interesting science facts. It covers topics such as lasers, lightning, and bioluminescence. Even the baby likes to play with the lasers.

Pocket Frogs (Free) – Raise and breed frogs. Sounds boring, but it captivates my kids. And it’s free!

Stack the States ($0.99) – Learn about our states, capitals, state flags and mottos, and geography in this fun app. In the paid version you can have multiple players set up on one device. I’ve learned as much as the kids! (There is a lite version for free).

Awesome Eats (Free) – This fast-paced game helps kids identify fruits and vegetables and promotes healthy eating habits. There are also new levels that show more about recycling!

Previous App Posts: Apps for English Language Arts
Coming Up Tomorrow: Spacial Thinking Apps
Later This Week: Just for Fun Apps, Apps for Toddlers

Ivey League Learning: Apps for English Language Arts

Someone asked me recently about the apps that I use with our kids. This week I’ll be sharing some of our favorites by category. You’ll notice that while I love a free app, I’m also not afraid to spend a little money for a good app. What are some of your favorite apps? We’d love to know!

Today’s list is of our favorite ELA apps for elementary and preschool kids.

Screen Shot 2013-05-09 at 2.36.48 AM

Toontastic (Free with option for paid upgrade) – This app allows you to create your own cartoon! We have laughed and laughed and laughed over this one. You can use the backgrounds and characters that are provided or you can draw your own. Remember how we used to play with felt boards? This is similar except it records you playing with it so that you see the characters moving and you narrating the story. You can go back and add music as well. I love to hear all the imaginative stories my kids come up with!

Mad Libs (Free) – Exactly what you think it is. Perfect for learning the parts of speech, and usually good for a laugh.

This Week’s Words ($3.99) – I rarely spend more than $2 on a kid’s app, so it has to come highly recommended. This one was great because you could put in your own words and you can set up accounts for each of your children. Then they log in and practice the words. After they pass the first two practice levels, it gives a spelling test.

Endless Alphabet* (Free) – This is the overall favorite app for all of my kids. And, admittedly, I kinda sorta like it as well. You move the letters around into the correct spot and as you move each one it makes it’s own sound. Once you have all of the letters in place, it acts out the word. Not only do you have letter recognition and letter sounds, but also vocabulary. And these aren’t words like CAT or DOG, but words like BELCH (the one I hear most often) and GARGANTUAN. When they hear the music start up, they all flock to the ipad.

Screen Shot 2013-05-09 at 2.14.36 AMRocket Speller* (Free) – This app is similar to Endless Alphabet, but with a completely different word set. There are levels and as you complete stages, you get to build rockets.


Don’t Let the Pigeon Run This App ($5.99) – This app was on sale when I bought it, but we really love it. The kids laugh and laugh at Pigeon’s silly antics and the Mo Willems shows you how to draw Pigeon. Funny and interactive app.

Coming Up Tomorrow: Apps for Math, Science, and Social Studies
Later This Week: Spacial Thinking Apps, Just for Fun Apps, Apps for Toddlers

Paper Addict for Life {Minted Review and Giveaway}

When I got married 12 years ago I remember making a special trip to the wedding and stationary store. The girl working the counter asked me a few questions about what I liked and then said, “I think you’d probably like this company. Or maybe this one. Or this one.” And with each one she mentioned, she handed me another ginormous binder of options. I could hardly see her over the stack of books but she helped me find a spot and my mom and I started looking. I’m a picky person, but I’m not a very patient one. After a few minutes of searching I was over the whole process. My mom saw one that was white with silver embossed daisies. I liked daisies. I liked silver. SOLD! Now let’s go eat lunch. Compare that to my friend who got married a few months ago. She sat wearing pjs in the comfort of her house at midnight when she ordered her invitations. She could easily click back and forth between her favorites and email her husband-to-be with options. She proofed it right then and there and it was at her house the next week. Mine took something like 6 weeks to get to me. Did you know that with Minted, you can get your invitations in 5-7 days?

And they don’t stop there. Minted has something for every stage and age. After you get married, you may need baby announcements. Minted has some lovely clean and simple options and this telegram one? LOVE! And get this? They offer FREE recipient address printing so tired moms and dads don’t have to worry about writing 400 addresses!

They have birthday party invitations and decor. They have art prints for your walls. They have stationary for all ages and styles. They have graduation announcements and moving announcements. They really are a one stop shop for all your stationary needs plus they have tons of pretty things for your house. Just look at these super cool family tree prints.

family tree rings

But the thing I love the most? The journals! I’m a journal girl. (You’re shocked, right?) And they have a huge assortment.

Wedding journals. I really wish I’d had one of these. Think of all I’ve forgotten since then!

minted_wedding2 minted_wedding1

Baby journals. To jot down all those sweet little moments.
(You think you’ll remember them, but you won’t).
minted_the story of you minted_baby2

Kid journals. For you to write down all the funny things your kids say or for your kid to start his or her own journal.
minted_quotes and notes minted_charlotte
That’d be perfect for keeping those writing skills sharp over the summer!
minted_vintage charm minted_kid1

When I was 16, my grandmother took me on a trip to Europe – just the two of us. She loved to travel and always bought a new travel journal for each trip. She made me keep one the whole time we were gone and I thought it was ridiculous back then, but I am certainly glad to have it now. Look at these cool travel-inspired journals.

minted_travel4 minted_travel1

They even have the option for lined, plain, or graph paper.
I’m a lined paper girl for writing, but I love plain paper for doodles. And I do love to doodle.

minted_life with doodle minted_to color

Okay, so who wants to buy me one of each?

minted_inspiration minted_thoughts of a major
minted_cerulean blooms minted_blue bird

It’d be easy for one of you because I’m giving away a $50 credit to Minted! 🙂
Entry is easy. Leave one comment here about your favorite Minted product.
One entry per person. Entries accepted until 11:59 EST on May 15th.
The winner – who will be picked at random – will be notified by email, so make sure you leave a correct address!

**COMMENTS NOW CLOSED. Winner has been chosen and notified.**