My Year in Books

Last night while I was on my computer:

Husband: “Did you get your blog post done?”

Me: “No” (complete with grumpy face and growling sound of sorts)

Husband: “What’s wrong? Writer’s block?”

Me: “No. Goodreads screwed me over.”

Husband: “Wha? What’s Goodreads?”

Me: “Goodreads is supposed to keep track of the books I read, and the books I want to read, and when I got my Year in Books email it said I only read 20 books but I’ve read way more than 20 books and Goodreads didn’t do a good job of compiling my yearly reading data for me!!!!!”

Husband: “Why do you need that?”

Me: “I don’t. I just like to have it.”

Husband: “Oh. Okay. G’night…”

I wanted to write a post for today about all the books I read in 2014, my favorites, my least favorites, etc. I had it in mind to do so, and then Haley wrote a post of the books she read this year, and I thought it would be swell to list the books I’ve read and tell you all about them. Fun, right? Please tell me I’m not the only one who thinks this is fascinating…


But Goodreads, my favorite reading/bookish app/social media thing, has failed me this year. I’m grumpy about it.

I have read many more than 20 books this year. And I have spent way too much time trying to sort through the 292 books on my Goodreads “Books I’ve read” shelf to see which ones I did read beyond the 20 Goodreads decided to keep track of.

Why do I care? I just do.

Ugh. Goodreads.

Anyway, I decided to go ahead and write the post even though it may be slightly less accurate than it would have been if Goodreads had done its job…

I think I actually read something more like 41 books, one of them twice (Something Other Than God), and listened to three audiobooks. Here they are:


  • Tobit’s Dog
  • The Wreath (Kristin Lavransdatter #1)
  • The Wife (Kristin Lavransdatter #2)
  • The Cross (Kristin Lavransdatter #3)
  • Treason: A Catholic Novel of Elizabethan England
  • Still Missing
  • The Fault in Our Stars
  • The Secret Keeper
  • Brideshead Revisited
  • Catholic Philosopher Chick Makes Her Debut
  • The Sun Also Rises
  • The Screwtape Letters
  • Keeping Faith
  • Station Eleven (audiobook)
  • Prince of Thorns (audiobook)
  • The Darkest Minds (#1 of a trilogy+, audiobook)
  • Never Fade (#2 of the Darkest Minds trilogy)
  • In the Afterlight (#3 of the Darkest Minds trilogy)
  • Sparks Rise (#2.5 of the Darkest Minds trilogy)
  • Divergent
  • Insurgent (I’m reading Allegiant, #3 of this trilogy, now)


  • The Liar’s Club
  • He Leadeth Me
  • See How She Loves Us
  • Hail Holy Queen
  • 33 Days to Morning Glory
  • Pope Awesome and Other Stories
  • Something Other Than God (x2)
  • Realer Than Real
  • Saint John Paul the Great: His Five Loves
  • Teaching From a State of Rest
  • Sister Queens: The Noble, Tragic Lives of Katherine of Aragon and Juana, Queen of Spain
  • Surprised by Truth
  • Catholicism for Dummies
  • The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates
  • Rediscover Catholicism
  • The Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic: How Engaging 1% of Catholics Could Change the World
  • The “R” Father
  • Joan of Arc
  • A Biblical Walk Through the Mass: Understanding What We Say and Do in the Liturgy
  • Desperate: Hope for the Mom Who Needs to Breathe
  • 150 Bible Verses Every Catholic Should Know
  • Story of a Soul: The Autobiography of St. Therese of Lisieux
  • The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ

44 books all together, almost even numbers of fiction (21) and non-fiction (23). As a great lover of fiction, I have been surprised in recent years by how much of my reading has been non-fiction. But as you can see, I read lots of Catholic and religious books these days, which make up the vast majority of my non-fiction list (19 of 23), and even some of my fiction list (9 of 21). Here are my thoughts on some of the books:

Disappointments: Biggest one? Brideshead Revisited. I liked the book, but having heard Haley refer to it as a highly influential book her conversion to Catholicism, I was expecting something… more. It was good, and I liked it. It just didn’t move me as much as I expected it to. Another disappointment has been the Divergent trilogy. I thought it was supposed to be really enjoyable (for fluff reading), and it has been just so-so. I’ve liked it enough to continue reading all three books, but it’s not as good as I thought it would be. I was also kind of disappointed by the Sister Queens book. I was thinking it was going to be historical fiction (one of my favorite genres, surprisingly underrepresented in my reading this year), but it was just straight-up history, and on the long and boring-ish side.

Better Than Expected: Treason: A Catholic Novel of Elizabethan England. I didn’t expect much from this book, but I ended up really liking it. It had some really beautiful passages and a moving section about an experience with the sacrament of Reconciliation. It was a lovely book. Also, the Darkest Minds trilogy+ was much better than I thought it would be. Young adult dystopian fiction is my go-to these days when I want to read something easy and frivolous. I got the first book to listen to when I drove a few hours for an appointment. I wasn’t expecting it to be anything other than easy and frivolous and mildly entertaining, but it was quite enjoyable and I quickly read the rest of the books too.

Most Annoying Book: Keeping Faith. Historically, I have really liked Jody Piccoult books, even though they get a little predictable in their courtroom drama. This one was just odd, with a little girl seeing visions of God, but in her visions God was a woman. The psychological experts were terrible, and the way Ms. Piccoult described the Catholic Church’s process of determining whether the little girl’s visions were real or not was off, as was a statement about what a person must be like to be canonized a saint.

Weirdest Titles: Desperate: Help for Moms Who Need to Breathe and Catholic Philosopher Chick Makes Her Debut. The former was pretty good, in spite of its melodramatic title. The latter was so-so.

Least Favorite Book: Prince of Thorns. It was absolutely awful. It’s not a book I would have chosen. I needed and audiobook to listen to when I went to Michigan to pick up the puppies. I downloaded the Audible app to use my husband’s account, and I planned to download a book onto my phone when I stopped at Starbucks on the way. Unfortunately, I didn’t know that you can’t download books fro the app, so I had to select from the books my husband already had downloaded. Prince of Thorns is what I ended up with, and it made for a crummy listening experience on my long drive, full of battles and blood and testosterone and a very unlikeable main character.

Favorite Fiction Book of the Year: The Screwtape Letters.


This one also could have gone under the heading of “Better than expected.” Super Friend told me about this book a few years ago when we were talking about all-time favorite books, before my conversion. I don’t remember exactly what she said about it, but I think her description went a little bit like this, “It’s about a devil who writes letters to his nephew, also a devil, instructing him how to corrupt souls…” I thought it sounded very weird and not at all interesting. This book is now on my list of all-time favorite books. It’s just so clever and it inspires deep thinking. As I’m writing this, it seems like I read this longer ago than this year, so I’m wondering if maybe I reread it this year? I must have. It’s definitely a book to be read more than once.

Favorite Non-Fiction Book of the Year: Pope Saint John Paul the Great: His Five Loves. This book blew me away. It made me so sad that I wasn’t Catholic while JPII was alive. I didn’t know much of anything about him, because I didn’t care much about what the pope was up to when JPII was in the role. But this book. Oh my goodness. Now I know. He was amazing and he is fascinating. The way Jason Evert writes this book, by highlighting five special loves of JPII as a means of helping readers come to know him and understand his teachings better, is brilliant. By the way, the five loves? Human love, young people, Mary, the Eucharist, and the Cross. Read this book.

There. My Year in Books, in spite of Goodreads. Aren’t you happy I persevered with this post?

Here are just a few of the books that I have lined up to start 2015:


I love to chat about books (obviously). What were your favorites from 2014? Tell me all, please.

Answer Me This – Mmmmm, Cheese!

This is the last time Kendra is hosting the Answer Me This link up (at least for now), so I couldn’t miss out this week.

1. What is your favorite picture book?

Oh my. No way could I answer with just one book. I wrote a guest post for the 101 Books blog last year about my favorite fictional picture books. That post included the top 15 books, but I linked it to a post on my blog that had 101 wonderful picture books.

Sooo, yeah. I really love picture books. If I had to choose one favorite favorite fictional picture book, it would probably be:

It is the book I enjoy reading the most, because I love doing the voices of the characters. And it makes me laugh. A close second:

And one more newish book that I love:

Because, obviously.

A couple of favorite nonfiction books include:

We have three copies of ^^ this one ^^. One has been read so much it’s falling apart. Lass used to sleep with it.


This book is huge, and it is filled with wonderful drawings of so many different animals, several of which I had never heard of before.

Ours has been taped and re-taped. Lass used to sleep with this one too.


2. Are you a boycotter?

No, not really. I did switch to buying Blue Diamond almond milk after learning that Silk (the other main brand of almond milk) is owned by a company that supports Monsanto. But, if Blue Diamond isn’t available, I’ll buy Silk.

On the other side of it, the day after the SCOTUS ruling about Hobby Lobby came out and everyone on my FB feed was in an uproar about how awful HL is, I went there and bought a bunch of stuff. It was stuff I needed anyway (most of it, though I did decide to buy some 4th of July decor I hadn’t planned on), but I made a pointed decision to purchase it from Hobby Lobby rather than JoAnn fabrics a few doors down, because I wanted to show them a little love in the midst of all the haters.

3. How do you feel about cheese?

Oh, I LOVE cheese. I think cheese is just wonderful. Unfortunately, I’m boycotting cheese right now.

I am someone who tends to gain a zillion pounds when I’m pregnant. I start gaining weight practically the very minute the second line turns pink. So, I gained (relatively) a lot of weight in the brief time that I was pregnant recently, and it really sucks to have to try to lose pregnancy weight without the blessing of a baby to snuggle while you do it. So, I need to lose the extra pounds ASAP. The fastest way I know of to do it is to get back to strict paleo eating, including no dairy.

Yeah. I love cheese.

4. How many pairs of sunglasses do you own?

I think three or four. I have a pair that I always keep in my car, and a few more here and there. I think I have two pairs in the cabinet by my back door, and maybe another pair somewhere that is scratched. . .


5. How long has it been since you went to the dentist?

About six months. I need to schedule appointments for myself and the girls, but I am being oppositional and putting it off. My dentist’s office always calls me an absurd amount of times to try to get me to schedule an appointment. I always tell them that I will call them when I am able to schedule it (usually they call me when I’m somewhere that I can’t look at my calendar or at a time when I’m in the middle of something else).

Even after I tell them that repeatedly, they still call me several times. I don’t like to be hounded, so now I’m just not scheduling it because I’m being ornery.

6. If you could visit any religious site in the world, where would you go?

The only religious site I have been to so far is the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help.


There are so many places I want to go. Guadalupe. Lourdes. Fatima. Rome and the Vatican. Cascia (that’s where Saint Rita is from).

If I could choose one place to go right now though, I would choose Jerusalem and the surrounding area. The Holy Land, I guess is a better was to say it. Someday. . .

To see more answers, go to Kendra’s link up.

Tomorrow is Miss’s first day of school outside our homeschool. I’m not sure if I’m going to bawl, or think of it as no big deal, since she’ll be back with me at home next week. I’ll let you know which way it goes.

7 Quick Takes About Miraculous Twins, Being a Crazy Stalker, and Other Stuff

Linking up with Conversion Diary, and actually making it on Friday this week.

1. Last weekend was Miss’s first piano recital. DSC_0115 Doesn’t she look so tiny?? Her song was about ten seconds long, and I was nearly in tears when she was done, it was so cute. DSC_0117 She went up in front of the audience like she owned the place. DSC_0118-2 She was thrilled to play in front of a crowd. I had no idea she could be so cool under pressure.

2. Last weekend we also potty trained Sis. DSC_0112 I like to use this 3-Day Potty Training method, which is horrid for three days and then awesome forever (except for a few days after I did the program with Miss, which were far, far from awesome).

It’s very strange to no longer be changing diapers! DSC_0132-2 3. Lass had her first haircut on Wednesday. Just as it was with Miss, her first cut came at 3.5 years old. She was so excited. IMG_3097 And I am so mad at myself because I forgot to save a snip of it. IMG_3099 All that beautiful hair, and I didn’t save any of it. I just want to cry every time I think about it. But she loves her haircut and has no idea that I messed up. Hopefully she won’t hate me when she’s 15 and realizes I saved hair from her sisters’ first haircuts but forgot hers. Or rather, hopefully she won’t hate me for that.

4. When we first got to the salon and the girls were climbing in the chairs to get started (Miss got her second haircut at the same time, so you can see they’ll be going for haircuts about as often as I do), I had an interesting exchange with the woman cutting Lass’s hair:

Her – “How old are they?”

Me – pointing at Lass, “She’s three,” and pointing at Miss, “and she’s five.”

Her – eyes bugging out, “Are they twins?

Me – blinking. . . “Uh. Nooo?”

Her – “Woooowwww.”

I get asked all the time if they’re twins. But never quite like that.

An “After” photo of my not-twins: IMG_3101 IMG_3102 5. It’s not uncommon for me to run into Super Friend when I’m out and about on any given day. We live in a not-huge town and we go to all the same places. The grocery store. The Catholic store. Target. We always laugh when we see each other as if it’s soooo craaaaazy that we’re running into each other again.

It was much the same thing on Tuesday when I pulled into the Target parking lot and saw her car there. I texted her real quick “Are you at Target???” She replied something like, “Yes! At Starbucks” (I’d like to take a moment to interject how amazing it is that there is a Starbucks in our Target store. Marketing genius, is what that is).

So I hopped out of my car and chuckled to myself all the way into the store, where I walked in to see her standing right near the entrance (since that’s where the Starbucks is). I laughed and said, “I swear, I’m not following you!” in cheesy reference to the fact that I had just seen her at the grocery store the day before.

Unfortunately I wasn’t paying attention to my surroundings when I said this and was oblivious to the fact that my crazy-stalker-lady comment scared the crap out of the woman walking right in front of me. She jumped and looked quickly over her shoulder with an expression of terror, made worse by the fact that Super Friend and I were cracking up laughing at my stupidity. So then I said, “Oh, I’m not following you either!” as the woman rushed into the store to get far, far away from me. I hope she got a laugh out of it once the initial horror was gone. Maybe?

6. I recently bought the book “Feast! Real Food, Reflections, and Simple Living for the Christian Year”  by Haley and Daniel Stewart to help me in my attempts at teaching my girls about the liturgical year and celebrating it as a family. It’s a wonderful book, and is full of delicious-looking (haven’t had a chance to make any of them yet) recipes for Advent, Christmas, Lent, and Easter seasons, as well as for many saints’  feast days.

So with the book you can read about a saint and make a meal that somehow represents that saint’s story (mostly by being a dish from the place where the saint lived, I think, though I haven’t looked through the whole book yet) on the saint’s feast day. History, religion, geography, and dinner, all in one! The book has lots of saints in it that I have never heard of, and recipes for foods I’ve never tried, so I can’t wait to make some of the dishes.

7. “Feast!” does not have a recipe for commemorating St. Rita’s feast day, which was yesterday. You may remember that St. Rita is the patroness of impossible cases, and I chose hers as my confirmation name.

So I took inspiration from the book and found my own recipe to celebrate her day. St. Rita is from Cascia, Italy, and I found a recipe for “Lentils with Sausages in the Style of Cascia” in this cookbook.

I cooked lentils once, a looong time ago, and they were awful. I didn’t get the texture right, and they had no flavor. At that time I told my husband that I would never, ever cook lentils again, but I couldn’t find any other traditional Cascian dishes, so I went for it anyway. Never say never, right? He actually remembered me saying that, and mentioned it to me yesterday.

Thankfully, this time the lentils were much better. DSC_0140 These actually had very good flavor, and I think the texture was how lentils are supposed to be. I realized that I just don’t much like lentils, because their texture isn’t appealing to me. But this dish was pretty good. As my husband said, “Edible lentils! That’s an improvement.”

Also to celebrate St. Rita’s day the girls watched this video, we colored a picture of her, we looked up Italy on our world map, and we made a bee craft, since my girls were especially interested in the part of St. Rita’s story involving the bees. It was a great way to celebrate a special feast day, though maybe next year I’ll search harder for different recipe from Cascia, sans lentils.

Have a wonderful Memorial Day weekend, and for more quick takes, check out Conversion Diary.

7 Quick Takes, Mostly About Wasting Time on the Internet

Linking up with Conversion Diary.

1. Here’s something I’ve learned about myself:

I do not like going to a salon for regular maintenance of any kind. This might be a somewhat new-ish development (maybe since having kids?), because I used to get my nails done every two weeks when I was in graduate school. But these days? Forget it. This is why I don’t color my hair. I even have a tiny bit of a mustache because I can’t be bothered to get it waxed on a regular basis.

This has never really been a problem for me. It wasn’t really too much of a big deal for me to regularly go at least six months between haircuts. But then I got bangs!

I did not foresee the problem of needing regular maintenance on bangs. They get long fast! I am not willing to go in for a $40 bang trim every three weeks of so. My solution? Cut them myself.


^^ See how long??

Well, now they’re short. Except I think I might have cut them a bit too short this last time. Good thing I invested in a few head bands for off hair days.

2. Speaking of learning things about myself, I am addicted to taking the ridiculous online “quizzes” everyone is posting on Facebook these days. I never seek them out, but when I see someone’s result from one of them on FB, like “I was meant to live in the 1950s. Which decade do you actually belong in?” or “I’m Burt! Which Sesame Street character are you?,” for some truly bizarre reason I can’t help but click on these just to see what I’ll get. Here’s what I’ve learned: I am a Hobbit Big Bird, who should have a career as a professor and live in Tennessee. Or Paris. In the 1920s.

See? Isn’t that interesting? Never mind the fact that my real answer to most of the items in these questionnaires is “None of these options,” or that I’m so unhip that the first time I took on of these quizzes (the one about “Which city should you actually live in?”) and it asked the question, “What’s your jam?,” the only one of the available responses that I had ever even heard of was “Sweet Child of Mine.” I must still be pretty glamorous though (see #1^^ for evidence of this), because I learned that I truly belong in Paris.

3. And speaking of silly internet wastes of time, my favorite of these quizzes was the one from the NY Times about “What does the way you speak say about where you’re from?” Unlike those in #2, this one was actually totally accurate. Calling the night before Halloween “Devil’s Night” and referring to a sugary carbonated beverage as “Pop” placed me squarely in Detroit, which really is the area where I did grow up.

One of the fun things about this particular quiz is that it showed the regional popularity of each individual answer given. Having lived in lots of states in the midwest and south, some of the things I say and ways I speak now no longer reflect my place of birth. Like “Frontage Road.” People don’t say that in Detroit, but I say it now. Fascinating.

4. Do these quick takes make me seem like all I ever do is waste time doing stupid stuff on the internet? Well, let me get all literary on you for a moment then. I recently came across a fun post (yes, on the internet) “What Your Book Crush Says About You.” My favorite literary gents from those included in the post are Gilbert Blythe and Rhett Butler. Though there’s nothing accurate in the post about what that actually says about me, it was still fun to read and think about some of my favorite male book characters. I wish she would have included Manly from the Little House books though. He’s a much better literary main man than Edward from Twilight, for pete’s sake.

So. I must know, which are your favorites?

5. I have discovered a love of the bento box for serving my kids lunch. I had gotten into such a lunch rut until I bought some of these containers and these silicone muffin things. Now it’s so much easier to get creative with lunch, and the girls seem to like it too. They refer to these as their “special” lunches.


^ Bacon, avocado, and lettuce, wrapped in a piece of turkey. In the muffin cup is some Justin’s Chocolate Hazelnut Nut Butter for dipping apple slices. They loved it!

It doesn’t really even seem to matter if they enjoy and eat what I put in these boxes for them. They almost never complain, because usually they have at least one thing in them that they like. Lunch is so much less of a drag.

And yes, I do realize that having a special box really isn’t necessary to serve lunch this way. But it seems more fun.

6. Miss started her piano lessons on Wednesday. Oh, the cuteness.

IMG_2956 IMG_2953

I wasn’t sure how it would go, but she loved it. And her teacher is a perfect fit for her. Now I just need to get a piano.

7. I said this before, but I’ll say it again. I am having a little bit of a hard time with five. All of a sudden my eldest is doing all sorts of super grown up stuff. She’s wielding scissors like a pro. She’s reading.

DSC_0607 DSC_0609 copy

She no longer says, “lasterday” instead of “yesterday” or “with-about” instead of “without.” I don’t know exactly when she began pronouncing those words correctly (it’s probably been a while), but her sweet little mispronunciations are gone (except that Lass now says “lasterday”).

I’m not ready for her, for them, to be getting so big. Sis will be two next month. I don’t have a baby anymore!! I’m very near the point of no longer having anyone’s diaper to change and this makes me sad. Probably that makes me weird too, but obviously it’s not the diapers I’ll miss, it’s having a teeny baby. I need another baby :)

Check out more quick takes here.

Book Review and Giveaway – Everything I Needed to Know I Learned from My Six-Month-Old

Everything I Needed to Know I Learned From My Six-Month-Old: Awakening to Unconditional Self-Love in Motherhood by Kuwana Haulsey, is part memoir, part self-help book, part inspirational journey. It’s a story about a mother. A mother who is going through the trials of all new mothers and sharing them in a way we can all learn something from.

Kuwana Haulsey writes beautifully about the process of becoming a new mother, getting to know your baby, losing yourself, and then finding yourself again. This is, to my knowledge, a universal experience of new mothers.

New motherhood is something new and exhilarating and overwhelming. Beautiful and crushing. Kuwana Haulsey delves into this new stage of life with lovely insights into the process of becoming a mom.

It’s not the same for every mom, but I think the inevitable transformation after having a first baby often involves similar stages, such as Losing Self in Precious Baby, Losing Self in Deprivation (sleep, time, self-care), Losing Self in What? The? Hell? (i.e. how do I get dressed each day?, how do I stay an individual person when there is constantly a sweet yet oh-so-needy little person hanging from me?, how the heck does this carseat work?), then Finding Self in Purpose, Finding Self in Balance, Finding Self in Managing to Shower Every Day. And so on.

Kuwana Haulsey describes this process in a much more eloquent and in-depth way in her new book. She describes the Every-Mom process of losing-and-then-finding-self by documenting lessons she learned from her son. Each of the 15 chapters in her book consists of a lesson the author learned about herself and life from observing her newborn son through the first several months of his life. Lessons like:

“If You Are Irritated by Every Rub, How Will You Ever Be Polished?”: Choosing Harmony Over Resentment,

When It All Falls Apart: The Art of Joyous Failure, and

Love Is Like Musk – It Attracts Attention

Some of the observations she makes are just so “how-did-I-never-think-of-it-that-way?” wonderful. She writes with a beautiful mix of simplicity and complexity that leaves you pondering the lessons that our children have to teach us.

And that is the real point of this book. Over and over, Kuwana points out how her newborn son’s perspective on the world is an opportunity to learn to embrace life more fully, find the beauty in the hard moments, become open to change, and learn to love oneself for real.

A few of my favorite lines:

“A newborn baby is a living, breathing, screaming, pooping meditation.”

“This is how we evolve: by rubbing the sticks of truth and meaning together until something inside sparks.”

“In the adult world, thinking ahead makes us rational and responsible. You’re congratulated when you relinquish the art of being lost in the moment.”

This is a wonderfully written book. Although there are some parts where the dialogue gets a bit stilted, and I found myself feeling kind of jarred by it, the majority of the writing and the message of the book more than make up for these awkward passages.

The book provides many reminders of ways in which changing your perspective can change your heart. In the case of this book, the perspective taken is that of an infant. The journey is in realizing that so much of our world can be simplified and embraced by looking at it through the eyes of someone who hasn’t yet been burdened by the expectations and judgements of adulthood.

As a mom, I try to remember to look at things through my kids’ eyes and experience levels. I often fail in these attempts, but I do try. This book provided me with even more ways to do this and ways to think about bettering myself and appreciating myself more in the process. As the author says,

To embrace fear and anger and misgivings right along with my child allowed me to embrace myself too. Placing tender, nonjudgemental attention on the situation and staying in the moment . . . allowed something fresh and relevant to spring forth, what the old folks use to call mother’s intuition.

This is a recommended read for other moms or moms-to-be. It’s a highly enjoyable and even inspirational read.

Now, the best part of this post is that I get to tell you that I am able to give away one of these books to one of you. If you want a chance to win the book, simply leave a comment on this post and make sure you include a way to contact you. I will close the giveaway on Sunday night (12/8) at 9pm Central time. Good luck!

** I was given a free copy of this book (plus a copy to give to a reader) in exchange for my honest review**

The Top 101 Fictional Picture Books

I’ve mentioned before my enjoyment of the blog 101 Books. It’s written by a guy named Robert who is reading and blogging his way through Time Magazine’s 100 Greatest Novels (since 1923, plus Ulysses).

I was thinking it would be great to have a list of the top 100 picture books. So I made one. Plus one. Just in time for the holidays. I wrote this originally as a guest post for 101 Books. The whole post, including how I came up with the list and my top 15, will be on Robert’s blog tomorrow. Make sure you check it out. For today, here’s the full 101:


The Top 101 Fictional Picture Books

  1. Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day – Viorst
  2. Are You a Horse? – Rash
  3. Are You My Mother? – Eastman
  4. Baby Danced the Polka – Beaumont
  5. A Bad Case of Stripes – Shannon
  6. Black Beauty – Lerner
  7. Bread and Jam for Frances – Hoban
  8. Can I Play Too? – Willems
  9. Chicka Chicka Boom Boom – Martin
  10. Click, Clack, Moo – Cronin
  11. Clorinda – Kinerk
  12. Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs – Barrett
  13. Corduroy – Freeman
  14. The Day Jimmy’s Boa Ate the Wash – Noble
  15. Dear Zoo – Campbell
  16. Diary of a Fly – Cronin
  17. Do Like a Duck Does – Hindley
  18. The Duckling Gets a Cookie?! – Willems
  19. Dumpy La Rue – Winthrop
  20. Edwina, The Dinosaur Who Didn’t Know She Was Extinct – Willems
  21. A Fish Out of Water – Palmer
  22. Fox in Socks – Seuss
  23. Frog and Toad Are Friends – Lobel
  24. Gingerbread Baby – Brett
  25. Giraffes Can’t Dance – Andreae
  26. The Giving Tree – Silverstein
  27. Glasswings – A Butterfly’s Story – Kleven
  28. Go Away Big Green Monster – Emberley
  29. Gossie – Dunrea
  30. Green Eggs and Ham – Seuss
  31. The Gruffalo – Donaldson
  32. Harold and the Purple Crayon – Johnson
  33. Hazel’s Amazing Mother – Wells
  34. Hedgie’s Surprise – Brett
  35. The Hello, Goodbye Window – Juster
  36. Hey Al – Yorinks
  37. Horton Hears a Who – Seuss
  38. Horton Hatches the Egg – Seuss
  39. I Ain’t Gonna Paint No More – Beaumont
  40. I Love Monkey – Kaufman
  41. I Love You No Matter What: A Prince Chirpio Story – Rutland
  42. I Love You Stinky Face – McCourt
  43. I Love You the Purplest – Joose
  44. Imogene’s Antlers – Small
  45. Interrupting Chicken – Stein (my all-time favorite)
  46. Is Your Mama a Llama? – Guarino
  47. Jamberry – Degan
  48. Julius, the Baby of the World – Henkes
  49. Jumanji – Van Allsburg
  50. Kipper – Inkpen
  51. Kitten’s First Full Moon – Henkes
  52. Knuffle Bunny – Willems
  53. The Library Lion – Knudsen
  54. The Little Engine that Could – Piper
  55. The Little House – Burton
  56. The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear – Wood
  57. Llama, Llama Red Pajama – Dewdney
  58. Madeline – Bemelmans
  59. Max’s Words – Banks
  60. Meet Me at the Moon – Marino
  61. Mike Mulligan and His Steamshovel – Burton
  62. Millions of Cats – Gag
  63. Mister Seahorse – Carle
  64. Mouse Was Mad – Urban
  65. Mossy – Brett
  66. Mud Puddle – Munsch
  67. My Friend is Sad – Willems
  68. The Napping House – Wood
  69. No, David! – Shannon
  70. Not a Box – Portis
  71. Officer Buckle and Gloria – Rathman
  72. One Fine Day – Hogrogian
  73. One Smile – McKinley
  74. Owen – Henkes
  75. Owl Babies – Waddell
  76. The Paper Bag Princess – Munsch
  77. The Pigeon Wants a Puppy – Willems
  78. The Pout Pout Fish – Diesen
  79. Room On the Broom – Donaldson
  80. Seven Blind Mice – Young
  81. Sheila Rae, the Brave – Henkes
  82. Should I Share My Ice Cream? – Willems
  83. A Sick Day for Amos McGee – Stead
  84. The Snowy Day – Keats
  85. Spoon – Rosenthal
  86. A Squash and a Squeeze – Donaldson
  87. Stellaluna – Cannon
  88. Stephanie’s Ponytail – Munsch
  89. The Story of Ferdinand – Leaf
  90. A Story, a Story – Haley
  91. Stuck – Jeffers
  92. Swimmy – Lionni
  93. Sylvester and the Magic Pebble – Steig
  94. There’s a Nightmare in My Closet – Mayer
  95. The Three Pigs – Wiesner
  96. The Very Hungry Python – Carle
  97. Time For Bed – Fox
  98. We’re Going on a Bear Hunt – Oxenbury
  99. When Sophie Gets Angry – Really, Really Angry – Bang
  100. Where the Wild Things Are – Sendak
  101. Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears – Aardema

What’s on your list?

23 Picture Books About Horses

We recently finished a unit on horses. My kids love horses, so this was a really fun one. If fact, we did this unit at their request.


As I always do, I got tons of picture books to read and talk about during our circle time. I found some really wonderful, beautiful horse books, and we had such a great time learning and imagining about these beautiful animals. As usual, I learned a lot while teaching it.

We read a total of 23 horse books, both fiction and nonfiction.


Here’s a list of what we read. The ones with links were our favorites.


Black Beauty retold by Sharon Lerner – This is such a classic story and this book has beautiful illustrations. My girls loved it. So did I.

The Wild Little Horse by Rita Gray – Sweet story of a little horse going off to explore.

Clip Clop by Nicola Smee – This was such a fun book to read with a really cute story about several animals taking a ride on a horse. My girls were laughing and asked to read it many times.

Are You a Horse? by Andy Rash – I LOVE this one. It’s a cute story about Roy, who gets a saddle for his birthday with the instructions: “1. Find a Horse, 2. Enjoy the Ride.” Roy doesn’t know what a horse is, so this is about his process of finding one. I love the twist at the end that had my girls (and me) surprised and laughing.

Where Horses Run Free: A Dream for the American Mustang by Joy Cowley – Gorgeous illustrations. My girls loved the main horse in this story.

The Girl Who Loved Wild Horses by Paul Goble – Lovely story, beautiful illustrations. I loved this one, though my girls weren’t super impressed with it.

Hush, Little Horsie by Jane Yolen – A sweet book about mama horses watching over their babies.

The Story of Black Beauty retold by Susanna Davidson – Another great retelling of this classic. My girls just seemed to like the other one a little better.

Cowboy Ned and Andy by David Ezra Stein

A Blue Ribbom for Sugar by Elaine Clayton

Everything but the Horse by Holly Hobbie

Fiction and Nonfiction:

A Field full of Horses by Peter Hansard – I couldn’t categorize this as fiction or non. It has a little storytelling with lots of facts included.


Horses: Trotting! Prancing! Racing! by Patricia Hubbell – This book has catchy rhymes and good information about breeds of horses, caring for them, and different jobs horses do.

Horses (Naturebooks Farm Animals) by Mary Ann McDonald – This one had a bit more detailed information than (and wasn’t as fun to read as) “Trotting! Prancing! Racing!” but it wasn’t too wordy.

Horses by Sheri Doyle – Short and sweet.

I Love Horses and Ponies: Over 50 Breeds by Nicola Jane Swinney – This is a beautiful book that my mom just gave to the girls. It’s not one for sitting down and reading start to finish, at least not at their age, but they love to look at it and learn about all the different horse breeds.

Horses (Animals Animals) by Steven Otfinoski – This one was a little too wordy for my girls, though I skimmed over it and they still earned some cool new stuff. My favorite thing about this one is the photos. It goes beyond the standard photos of horses standing in a pasture or looking over a stable gate or carrying a rider… This book has photos of horses nibbling each other, making funny faces, showing their teeth and more.

Horses and Ponies by Anna Milbourne

Girls and Their Horses (American Girl Library) by Camela Decaire

Horses (Farm Animals) by Rachael Bell

Horses (Great Pets) by Gail Mack

Horses! by Gail Gibbons


Gallop O Gallop by Sandra Alonzo – I didn’t actually read this whole book for my girls. I just don’t enjoy reading them a book of poetry. A few poems is good, but not a whole book of this length.


What’s your favorite horse book?

4th of July Fun

We’re having lots of 4th of July fun here. I love the 4th of July. It’s not my favorite holiday, but it’s up there. I like the patriotic songs and parades and the flag waving. I love the middle-of-summer-holiday barbecues or picnics, beach trips or family parties by the pool. And my favorite, of course is the fireworks. We are planning to take the big girls out to watch those tonight and hopefully catch some fireflies and make s’mores too.

They are already getting into the patriotic spirit.

I made these shirts with the girls yesterday:


I got the idea here. I think we’ll do them every year.

I didn’t think of it until after I totally failed in getting Sis’s handprint, but I should have used her footprint instead I think…


The girls were excited to wear the shirts that they made themselves.


And we’ve read several patriotic and 4th of July themed books today, like:

Hooray for the 4th of July! by Rick Brown

America the Beautiful (Love this one) by Katharine Lee Bates and Chris Gall

America the Beautiful: Together We Stand by Katharine Lee Bates, Brian Collier (et al.)

Happy 4th of July Jenny Sweeney! by Leslie Kimmelman

Red, White, and BOOM! by Lee Wardlaw and

Apple Pie 4th of July by Janet S. Wong

Last night I put together a red, white, and blue-themed scavenger hunt for them to do this morning.


I had several packs of small American flags from the Target dollar section, cut some craft foam into different shapes, and grabbed a few extra things from the dollar store this week (red, white, and blue batons, leis, and artificial flowers).

I was hoping that the girls would enjoy this activity, and they really did. Even more than I expected, I think.

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Miss liked crossing off her items as we went.


Everyone got into finding cool stuff.


When we came in we got all decked out in our red,white, and blue stuff (picture leis, flowers in the hair, and lots of flags waving) and marched in a parade around the house, complete with Grandma singing “Yankee Doodle” at full volume.


Fireworks tonight. Hope you’re having a wonderful 4th too.

Some Miscellany – 7 Quick Takes Friday

— 1 —

I am kind of obsessed with reading the blog Conversion Diary right now. Is it possible to be “kind of obsessed”? Probably not. I think that’s an oxymoron. Whatev. I’m calling it “kind of obsessed.” It’s a blog about the author’s conversion from Atheist to Catholic, among other things. Love it.

Every Friday the blog’s author Jennifer writes a post called “7 Quick Takes Friday.” Then lots of other people write “7 Quick Takes” posts and link them to her blog. Fun, yes? I enjoy random thoughts on a Friday. So this week, I’m going to throw my hat in the 7 Quick Takes ring and see how it works out.

— 2 —

During the seemingly endless winter that we had here this past year I was desperately wishing summer would come. I was so eager to be able to take my kids outside to play without spending 3 hours getting them stuffed into several layers of clothing, snow pants, boots, coats, etc. And the mittens! Oh geez. I loathe mittens. Can’t anyone make mittens for toddlers/preschoolers that actually go on easily and stay on and keep their hands warm and dry?

Anyway, I don’t love the process of getting three kids under five ready to go out and play in the winter. So I was excited when spring arrived.

Except I had forgotten about sunscreen.

*Insert audible sigh here*

I think it takes at least as long to get sunscreen on them as to put on mittens. But sunscreen is messier. And they squirm and scream more during the process.



— 3 —

We have two butterflies in our little butterfly cage. Of six caterpillars that came in the mail, two of them successfully formed chrysalides and emerged as butterflies. There is one more chrysalis that may still successfully birth a butterfly, but the rest didn’t work out.

The girls are so excited about the two they’ve got. They are sure one is a girl and one is a boy.

I, on the other hand, am worrying because they don’t seem to be eating. I mixed the sugar water as instructed and even put a piece of fresh watermelon in the little butterfly house. I keep looking in there, “Come on little Painted Lady. Unroll that proboscis. Doesn’t that sugar water taste yummy when you step on it?” But I don’t think it’s happening.

In case you’re thinking me cruel, don’t worry. They’ve only been “hatched” for 1-2 days. We’ll be letting them go soon and they can find their own flowers and drink all the nectar they want.


My girls have even been scoping some out for them.


— 4 —

Miss completed Safety City this week. Yesterday I went to watch her graduation and she got to show off some of the stuff she learned. They had a karate instructor to teach the kids about “stranger danger.” He called Miss up to demonstrate what they are supposed to do if a seemingly nice stranger speaks to them, such as a little old lady asking for help finding her dog. Karate Man knelt down, imitated a sweet old lady voice, complete with sad face and “Can you please help my find my little lost dog?” Miss turned and ran and yelled, “NO THANK YOU I’M GOING TO GET MY MOM AND DAD!!!!” I was so proud. I almost started to cry.

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— 5 —

In the past few weeks I have read three Awesome-with-a-capital-A books. Two of them were on my Summer Reading List.

The Hiding Place” by Corrie Ten Boom has just gone straight to the top of my list of all-time favorite books.

And “The Screwtape Letters” by C.S. Lewis has made the favorites list as well.

The third one wasn’t on my summer list but I had to read it anyway. “My Sisters the Saints: A Spiritual Memoir” is an amazing book (and another favorite now).

From my summer list I’ve also read “On the Beach,” “The Sun Also Rises,” and “The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry.” All enjoyable reads as well if you’re looking for a good book.

— 6 —

My hubby starts working nights tonight. I don’t love the weeks that he works nights.

I’ve been trying to plan ways for us to be out of the house next week during the day, but Miss has Wee Camp at the YMCA in the mornings, so we can’t take any big day trips to some of the fun places I’m wanting to visit this summer (See our Summer Fun List).

So far I’ve got grocery shopping and two play dates with Super Friend (God bless Super Friend) to help us get through the week. And one day I’m just punting to our babysitter to take Lass and Sis in the basement to play while Daddy sleeps. Throw in Church one day and a possible closing on some property another (I’ll post more about this if it happens, because I don’t want to count my chickens…) and I think we’re pretty well covered.

— 7 —

Speaking of our list of stuff to do this summer, I would like to note that I officially changed the name of it from “Summer Bucket List” to “Summer Fun List.” I did this after reflecting on the origin of the phrase “Bucket List” and realizing that the name came from the movie characters’ lists of things to do before “kicking the bucket.” Seemed a bit extreme for a list of fun things to do with my little girls before summer ends.


For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Cultivating Bug Love

My girls love being outside. They love getting dirty, wet, chalky, bubble-y.

They love the grass and flowers. The birds and animals.



They aren’t really huge fans of bugs though.

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In fact, creepy crawlies are probably their least favorite things about being outside.

They like to explore and examine all sorts of things,



but bugs tend to freak them out.


That is, until we decided to study bugs in school.

I is for Insects.

Heck yeah.

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Okay, she still looks a little freaked out in that picture, but that was at the very beginning of our unit. And she was holding a hornet. It was dead. But it was a hornet.

Anyway, we did all sorts of fun stuff with bugs.

We used bugs for counting and sorting and puzzling.

We studied bug life cycles.

We learned cool words: Metamorphosis. Chrysalis. Pupa. Thorax. Proboscis. Glossa.

We learned all about lots of different kinds of bugs and read tons of books, fiction and nonfiction, about them.

Books about ants.



Ant Cities (Dorros)

Bug Safari (Barner)

Ants (Stewart)

The Ant and the Grasshopper (White)

Books about bees.



Busy Buzzy Bee (Wallace)

Bees (Slade)

Honey Bees (Schaefer)

Bees! (Winchester/TIME for Kids)

Gran’s Bees (Thompson)


Old Cricket (Wheeler)

A Pocketful of Cricket (Caudill)

Crickets (Coughlan)


Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ear (Aardema)

Mosquitoes (Coughlan)



Are You a Butterfly? (Allen)

The Very Hungry Caterpillar (Carle)

From Caterpillar to Butterfly (Heiligman)

Caterpillar to Butterfly (Marsh)

Glasswings – A Butterfly’s Story (Kleven)

My Oh My – A Butterfly! (Rabe)

Where Butterflies Grow (Ryder)

Speaking of which, look what came in the mail yesterday!



The Ant and the Grasshopper (White, same book as above in the Ants section)

Grasshoppers (Coughlan)


Fireflies (Coughlan)


The Very Clumsy Click Beetle (Carle)

Even especially yucky, annoying bugs like termites and flies and fleas:

Roberto the Insect Architect (Laden)

Diary of a Fly (Cronin)

A Flea Story (Lionni)

And general bug books:

Insect Soup (Polisar)

Insects (Bernard)

How to Hide a Butterfly and Other Insects (Heller)

Insect Homes (Hopkins)

The Very Ugly Bug (Pichon)

Insect Detective (Voake)

The last book was especially great to read after we went to a local nature preserve yesterday to look for bugs. We went with some other homeschooling families and reserved time with a naturalist to look in the ponds and prairies for insects. Unfortunately, it was raining the whole time, so we didn’t even try the prairies and only got to scoop stuff out of the ponds. But the girls got to see dragonfly and damselfly nymphs (which I had never seen before) as well as lots of tiny tadpoles. They even saw one of the dragonfly nymphs start to eat one of the tadpoles!

Today we finished up with ladybugs:

The Grouchy Ladybug (Carle)

Starting Life Ladybug (Llewellyn)

Ladybug, Ladybug (Brown)

Ladybug Girl (Soman)

Lara Ladybug (Florie)

What the Ladybug Heard (Donaldson)

The freak-out factor with bugs has decreased significantly. They are much more likely now to say “cool!” when they see a bug than to be scared of it.

That’s not to say they’re totally loving bugs though. Miss lost her ever-loving mind yesterday when a mosquito got into the car as we were leaving the nature preserve.

But no one loves mosquitoes…