Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Five New Children’s Books by Authors from around the Globe

Travel the world with these five charming newly released children's books written by renowned children’s authors from around the globe.

Kamik an Inuit Puppy Story 
Adapted from the Memories of Donald Uluadluak 

"In order to train a good dog, you have to build trust with the dog, living with it every day and teaching it through how you behave and how you treat it. I spent a lot of time with my dogs. It was more like building a good friendship than raising an animal. Eventually they start to understand you and you start to understand them."

-Kamik an Inuit Puppy Story 
Travel to the northernmost territory of Canada and tag along as a little boy trains his headstrong, disobedient puppy, Kamik. As little Jake works hard to transform Kamik into a speedy sled dog, his grandfather shares the sled dog rearing traditions of the Inuit, who have been raising husky dogs for generations.  

No Such Thing as Nessie
Chani McBain and Kirsteen Harris-Jones
Voyage to Loch Ness, Scotland, and join little Finlay on a hunt for the elusive Nessie. While visiting her grandmother, who lives near the infamous Loch Ness, brave dinosaur-loving Finlay ignores the disbelievers and sets out to prove that the Loch Ness Monster really does exist.   

Avati: Discovering Arctic Ecology
Mia Pelletier

Explore the complex Arctic ecosystem and discover the plants and animals that thrive despite the cold. This beautiful book gives readers a glimpse into the amazing ways that animals, plants, and insects have adapted and learned to coexist in the Arctic ecosystem. 

Anton and the Battle
Ole Konnecke
Swedish author and illustrator Ole Konnecke brings to life two tiny boys as they battle to determine who is the strongest. It's all about imagination as Anton and Luke duke it out with their imaginary weapons of destruction - including a giant bugle, a super loud piano and a four-headed dragon. 

A Year Around the Great Oak
Gerda Muller

Watch as the seasons change and friendships are strengthened under a mighty oak tree in Germany. Benjamin, Anna and their cousin Robin discover the intricate ecosystem that the tree seems to rule in this enchantingly illustrated book by renowned children's author Gerda Muller. Kids will love trying to spot the many animals scattered throughout the forest that surrounds the Great Oak. 

Monday, October 28, 2013

#makesmesmilemondays Our Big Family

I always dreamed of having a big family. I'd always wanted to have five kids - or at least three.

My mother came from a big Irish/English Catholic family, and I loved to be at my Grandma's home, who lived nearby and where I spent much time: her home was always filled to the brim with aunts and uncles and cousins - and I wished for the same.

But alas...Life takes us in other directions. God had a better plan for me: I have two fantastic children who I love with all my heart, but there are always one, two or three other children running around our home. Our family is big....bigger than I ever could have imagined.

Yesterday, at breakfast. Wish I could have captured Chiara with her eyes opened!

Our home is filled with love and most of the time it's brimming with people and activity, and that's exactly the way I love it.

Let's Talk about Self-Esteem and Beauty with Our Girls: Dove and Kroger #GirlsUnstoppable #Giveaway

I believe that my daughter's self esteem begins with me. After all, she copies pretty much everything I do: she puts on my shoes and even my bras whenever she has the chance. She watches me carefully when I wash my face and put on my makeup in the morning. She listens to every word I say - about myself, about others. She looks very much like me: same blue eyes, same dimpled cheeks. Best of all, she thinks I'm the most beautiful woman in the world!
My beautiful daughter

So I am careful to talk proudly about myself. As my daughter grows, we'll have lots of talks about beauty, confidence, and self-esteem. In our home, there will be no dieting: just healthy eating and exercise. In our home, the focus will be on beauty that comes from within. My daughter will see me pampering myself, taking care of myself, and doing the things I love to do. My daughter will hear me make positive comments about the way I look. Doesn't my butt look beautiful in this pair of jeans?! (lol). 

I will do my best to teach my daughter that it's best to focus on the things that no one can take away from you - not even time! - your kindness and your education and lovely life experiences, like travel and ballet classes and hikes in the forest and moments spent with family and friends. 

Here's a sad statistic: Did you know that six in 10 girls stop doing what they love because of anxiety about their looks? That’s why Kroger teamed up with the Dove® Self-Esteem Project. Together, they are working to help reach more than 15 million girls with self-esteem building programs by 2015, with a portion of proceeds from every purchase of Dove® products invested in helping girls across the country reach their full potential. Dove® has also partnered with the Boys and Girls Club, Girls Scouts and Girls Inc.  and every  time you buy Dove® at Kroger, your purchase helps provide self-esteem programs for girls across the country. Dove® has already reached more than 11 million girls, and with your help, they can reach their 15 million target by 2015.  


What can we do to positively impact a girl's self-esteem? You'll find simple, handpicked activity suggestions on the downloadable Dove Self-Esteem Toolkit. You can also spread the word by joining the #GirlsUnstoppable conversation online. 

Now for the giveaway! Kroger and Dove have teamed up to offer one of our readers, a chance to win a $15 prize pack of Dove products. This contest is open to US Residents only, ages 18 and up, with one entrant per household. Winner has 48 hours to claim their prize once emailed, or a new winner will be chosen.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure: This post and giveaway is sponsored by Dove and Kroger. All opinions are my own. 

Sunday, October 27, 2013


A friend is someone who understands your past, believes in your future, and accepts you today just the way you are.

Chiara and Athenia then...
and now...

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Friday, October 25, 2013

Halloween Treat Printable and Lunchbox Fun with GoGo squeeZ

Here's a no-spoon, no-mess way to enjoy fruit on-the-go: GoGo squeeZ.

GoGo squeeZ is gluten-free, dairy-free, nut-free, and made with no artificial anything – And, at only 60 calories, it’s a healthy snack parents can feel good about sharing with their kids. It comes in Eleven Yummy Flavors including, AppleApple, AppleStrawberry, AppleCinnamon, AppleBanana, ApplePeach, AppleBerry AppleMango, AppleCherry, AppleGrape, ApplePear and the newest addition – Apple Mandarin. There is also an all-organic line as well! GoGo squeeZ is a great lunchbox staple for children of all ages and it can now be served with a side of Halloween fun. 

Review: Relished Meal Delivery Service

I enjoy cooking. It's just the shopping and gathering of the ingredients that get me down. As a busy working mom, I just don't have the time to curate daily menus, shop and gather all the necessary ingredients. Here's a new-to-Chicago meal delivery service that takes the busy work out of cooking and promises fresh new recipes with ingredients and easy-to-follow instructions that arrive right at your doorstep: Relished.  
Rigatoni Bolognese

Give a Gift to Remember: The My Little Pony Line at Build-A-Bear, with Fluttershy Ready to Make Her Debut on November 29th

My 4-year-old daughter is adores My Little Pony. For her 4th birthday, we even hosted a pony themed party. So it's no surprise that #1 on her Christmas wish list this year is a new Build-A-Bear My Little Pony to add to her collection. 
Princess Twilight Sparkle and Rainbow Dash from Build-A-Bear

Thursday, October 24, 2013

3 Things I'm thankful for this week #ThankfulThursday

Every Thursday, I'll be highlighting three things I'm thankful for. Join me by sharing three things you're thankful for, too. #ThankfulThursday


(Thanks @pinkhotel_jen for posting to FB)1. I am thankful that I still have the energy and strength to ride my bike to school, even in the colder weather. I'm proud of my persistence! Though I do not always feel like facing the chilly weather early in the morning, I always feel better after riding my bike. 

File:Cinnamon bun with icing.jpg2. I'm thankful for the cinnamon rolls a dear friend made for me this week. One of the easiest ways to get to my heart: warm, homemade cinnamon buns!

3. I'm thankful for Wes Anderson's The Royal Tenenbaums. I finally watched it after years of having it on my to-watch list, and I found myself laughing out loud throughout. It truly is one of the top 10 movies I've ever watched. I just adored Etheline and Margot Tenenbaum.

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Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Give a Gift to RememBEAR Review and Giveaway! New Holiday Products at Build-A-Bear

The 2013 Build-A-Bear Holiday Collection
Looking for a special holiday gift for the little one in your life? Build-A-Bear Workshop® is launching a new collection of seasonal stuffies just in time for the Holidays and here's a sneak preview!

I adore Build-A-Bear Workshop because it's the perfect place to create special holiday memories with your children. Last year, I took my daughter, age 4, and son, age 12, to the Build-A-Bear Workshop on Chicago's Navy Pier. Our trip to make holiday stuffies - a Grinch and a Rudolph - was one of their favorite holiday activities last year. Even though my son is a bit too old for stuffed animals, he still had a blast being a little kid again and sharing in the spirit of the holidays by working alongside and helping out his little sister.

Monday, October 21, 2013

#makesmesmilemondays Field Trips

Last week I chaperoned two field trips: On one trip, I was the parent chaperon for my daughter's PreK field trip to a nature center. I was in charge of three little girls. This was just as challenging, if not more so, than the field trip I took my own students - over 90 kids!!! - the next day, to a theater in River North where we saw a collection of international shorts and met some film directors from around the world.

I want to give a major shout out to anyone who works with the under 5 set on a daily basis. Your patience, kindness and teaching spirit are VERY appreciated! As much as it can be difficult working with teenagers, the preschoolers really challenged my kid-wrangling skills.

Any teacher will tell you: field trips are a pain in the butt to plan and execute, but they are always worth it.
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Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Spook-tacular Movie Giveaway: Win a Halloween Cartoon Favorite! #Giveaway #Halloween

What is the best part about Halloween?
The pumpkin carving? The costumes? The free candy? All are amazing, but whether you are the bunch that loves dressing up and scaring the neighbors or you plan to stay-in, Warner Bros. has a line-up of Spook-Tacular Movies to get you in the holiday spirit. From classics likeIt's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown & Scooby-Doo The Goblin King to Adventure Time – Jake the Dad, you can count on a spook-tacular selection that the entire family can enjoy!
Before you and the kids take the neighborhood by storm, get in the mood by sharing some spooky stories! Download copies of the Spook-Tacular Story Time PDF, fire up the flashlights, and gather in a circle..... this Halloween it's STORY TIME! Perfect for kids ages 7 to 73!
I have one DVD (sorry, you won't be able to pick which one - it will be a surprise!) to give away to one lucky reader. Enter below via Rafflecopter! Be sure to share in the comments section below your favorite part of Halloween!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure: Special thanks to Partnershub for sponsoring this post! Each household is only eligible to win 1 WB Spook-Tacular Family Movie [CHOSEN AT RANDOM] via blog reviews and giveaways. Only one entrant per mailing address per giveaway. If you have won the same prize on another blog, you will not be eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013


Guess where I was this past weekend???

I think the last picture gives it away... I spent a wonderful long weekend in Toronto, being wined and dined and enjoying this cosmopolitain, fun, art-filled city! If you haven't been, get yourself on a flight (less than 1.5 hours from Chicago)!

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Friday, October 11, 2013

Raise a Giant: Teach your kids to speak up and say, “That’s not okay” when they see bullying happening.

The folks at Green Giant®  know it takes a lot more to raise a healthy child then just getting them to eat their vegetables, so they've partnered with PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center and We Day Minnesota to help parents Raise A Giant and put a stop to bullying in their community. As a teacher and parent, I know well that kids these days live in a world that is bigger than the world we grew up in, and they need encouragement to navigate that world with confidence and pride. 

Thursday, October 10, 2013

3 Things I'm thankful for this week #ThankfulThursday

Every Thursday, I'll be highlighting three things I'm thankful for. Join me by sharing three things you're thankful for, too. #ThankfulThursday

1. I'm thankful that I have a job where I can make a difference in the lives of children. I feel blessed to be a teacher. One of my former students came to visit me at school this week, and again I was reminded that even the little things I do here in the classroom can touch the lives of a child. It is SO WONDERFUL to see my former students move on to bigger and brighter things in life, or even to conquer difficult issues with strength and courage, as my former student has been battling neurological issues. I am a role model, and I must always keep that in mind.  

2. I thankful for this picture that made me laugh today. It's so me. 

3. I am thankful for my daughter, who sneaked into my bed super early this morning and fell back asleep cuddled next to me, then woke up with my alarm clock, gave me a hug and said, I *really* love you, Mama. My children are most definitely bright, loving lights in this world; I couldn't be prouder.
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Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Go BIG or go EXTINCT! Giveaway: Enter to Win a Copy of Pacific Rim on Blu-ray #Giveaway #PacificRim

Have you seen Pacific Rim?
Directed by Guillermo del Toro, Pacific Rim is an epic science fiction film set in the 2020s. Earth is at war with Kaijus; colossal monsters from an inter-dimensional gateway on the Pacific Ocean floor. Humanity unites to fight these huge monsters by creating the Jaegers: gigantic humanoid robots that are controlled by two pilots whose minds and memories are linked. The story takes place in the later days of the war, following Raleigh Becket, a former Jaeger pilot called out of retirement and paired up with newbie pilot Mako Mori in a final effort to defeat the Kaijus!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

My Tips for Potty Training without Tears

This post originally appeared on ChicagoParent.com

I successfully potty trained both of my kids - boy and girl - before age two and in less than a week. Here are fifteen tips for successful potty training:

1. Don't believe the hype. Diaper manufacturers would like us to believe that potty training should start at age 3, but the American Academy of Pediatrics affirms that children's elimination muscles reach full maturity somewhere between 12-24 months, with an average age of maturity at 18 months.

2. Cancel your plans. Plan to stay at home for three days while you potty train. Play outside, but in the backyard.

3. Set the stage. One week before you plan to potty train, start talking about using the potty often. Let your child know that it's almost time for him to use the potty. Check out some potty-themed children's books from the library; download some potty-training videos. My daughter loved reading Miss Piggy's No More Diapers.

4. Talk it up! You may feel ridiculous doing it, but talk often about how much you love going to the potty.

5. Buy a child's seat that fits onto the toilet. Potty chairs are a pain in the butt (no pun intended!) to clean up. Purchase a child's potty insert and a stepping stool so children are using the toilet from the get go. Also, you can take the potty insert with you when you leave the home during potty-training and your child will be used to using it eliminating any public restroom drama.

6. Once you begin potty training, there is no turning back! Say goodbye to diapers on day one. But it might be wise to  have pull-ups on hand for nighttime if you don't think your child can hold his bladder for the entire night. Do not reveal the new potty until day one of potty training and when you do make it a grand reveal - involve the whole family and talk that potty up!

7. Hello to comfy underpants! Surprise your child with a nice new set of underpants featuring their favorite characters. As soon as they wake up, reveal the new potty and guide them to use it for the first time.

8. Head to the potty every hour until your child gets the hang of it.

9. When it's time to go potty, create a ritual. I would run the water a little bit and we'd wait and listen for that first tinkle or poop. Flush the toilet with fanfare and wash hands.

10. Your child is used to the attention that you gave during a diaper change. Give that same amount of attention - even more - and sit with your child while he is on the potty.

11. Keep a couple of special books in your bathroom, so you have some potty-time reading material on hand.

12. If there is an accident, don't make a big deal. Don't give it any attention - neither negative nor positive. Just clean up the mess, without commentary. Try not to give a bath. Some kids view baths as rewards. Just wipe up with a warm washcloth.

13. After three initial days of potty training, plan three days of limited excursions. Bring a change of clothes with you just in case. When traveling in the car, you may want to place an absorbent towel on your child's car seat.

14. Celebrate!I never gave my children stickers or rewards after each successful trip to the potty, but after three consecutive days of successful potty training I did gift them with a special commemorative "You're a big kid now!" treat.

15. Give yourself a pat on the back! Potty training can be stressful, but once it's done, it's done. You've helped your child reach another milestone!

Have you successfully potty trained your child? What tips or tricks worked for you?
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Review: Werther's Original Caramel Popcorn

Caramel Popcorn is one of my favorite treats, so we were delighted to host a party featuring the delicious new Werther's Original Caramel Popcorn. We cuddled up on the sofa with family and friends, ate caramel popcorn and watched the inspiring movie Soul Surfer

Monday, October 7, 2013

#MakesMeSmileMondays Pope Francis’ Five Finger Prayer for Kids

My daughter is in Catholic school and shared this simple yet beautiful prayer that Pope Francis authored when he was still the Archbishop in Argentina.  

Pope Francis’ Five Finger Prayer for Kids

1. The thumb: The thumb is the closest finger to you. So start praying for those who are closest to 
you. They are the persons easiest to remember--your family and your friends. To pray for the 
people we love is a "sweet obligation."

2. The next finger is the index finger. Pray for those who teach you, instruct you and heal you. 
They need the support and wisdom to show direction to others. Always keep them in your 

3. The following finger is the tallest. It reminds us of our leaders: the presidents, kings, governors, 
mayors, and all those who have authority. They need God's guidance.

4. The fourth finger is the ring finger. Even though it may surprise you, this is the weakest of all 
your fingers. It should remind us to pray for the weakest, the sick, the poor, or those who face 
many problems. They need your prayers.

5. Finally you have your smallest finger--the smallest of them all. Your pinkie should remind you 
to pray for yourself. When you are finished praying for the other four groups, you will be able to 
see your own needs, but in the right perspective, and also you will be able to pray for your own 
needs in a better way.

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