{Mama Tips} Our Library Read Aloud List

This post includes Amazon affiliate links. :)

Caleb and I love reading together! On top of the dozens of wonderful books we own, we enjoy library trips to discover what often become new favorites. Sometimes it is hard to find good ones just pulling randomly from the shelf–there are so many poorly-written tales, agenda-driven plots, boring illustrations, or hokey, sometimes creepy, themes. So I place holds, or look for specific authors when I’m browsing.

Below is a collection of some of our favorite books, in alphabetical order by author so that you can take this list and easily look for these titles in your children’s department. I’ve added a few titles thanks to some of your recommendations! You’ll notice that many of them have to do with snow…that’s been a favorite topic here recently. :)

I’m putting an asterisk at the end of titles that I personally find especially cute, entertaining, or moving to read aloud even as an adult, but these are all books that Caleb enjoys and requests. :)

Abrahams, Peter Quacky Baseball
Ashforth, Camilla Horatio’s bed*
Barrett, Judi Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs
Becker, Bonnie A Visitor for Bear*
Bee, William Stanley series*
Bond, Felecia Poinsettia and Her Family*
Bond, Michael Paddington*
Boynton, Sandra The Belly Button Book* (super fun author!)
Breen, Steve Woodpecker Wants a Waffle*
Buehner, Caralyn Snowmen All Year
Buehner, Caralyn Snowmen at Night*
Bunting, Eve Tweak, Tweak
Bunting, Eve Have You Seen My New Blue Socks?*
Bunting, Eve A Turkey for Thanksgiving
Burach, Ross There’s a Giraffe in My Soup
Burten, Martin Nelson Whale Comedian
Burton, Virginia Lee Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel*
Burton, Virginia Lee Katy and the Big Snow*
Burton, Virginia Lee The Little House*
Butler, Christina The Smiley Snowman
Carle, Eric The Tiny Seed (and other Eric Carle books)
Casey, Tina The Underground Gators
Christelow, Eileen Five Little Monkeys Reading in Bed*
Coerr, Eleanor The Josefina Story Quilt
Dahl, Michael Goodnight Baseball
Daywalt, Drew The Day the Crayons Quit*
Freeman, Don Corduroy
Himmelman, John Pigs to the Rescue*
Hoban, Russell Frances series* (I LOVE these humorous books, but some editing of attitude issues may be needed, depending on your child.)
Imamura, Kazuo Hooray for Snow!*
Kinsey-Warnock, Natalie The Bear That Heard Crying*
Leaf, Munro The Story of Ferdinand
Levitin, Sonia Nine for California*
Lobel, Arnold Days With Frog and Toad
London, Jonathan Froggy Gets Dressed
Mayer, Mercer Just Me in the Tub
McCloskey, Robert Lentil*
McCloskey, Robert One Morning in Maine*
McCloskey, Robert Make Way for Ducklings*
McCloskey, Robert Blueberries for Sal*
Mclaughlan, Patricia All the Places to Love*
Numeroff, Laura If You Give A… series
Pryor, Ainslie The Baby Blue Cat and the Whole Batch of Cookies*
Rentta, Sharon A Day With the Animal Builders
Ringer, Sherri Duskey Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site
Rubin, Adam Dragons Love Tacos*
Rylant, Cynthia Poppleton series*
Rylant, Cynthia Mr. Putter & Tabby series*
Rylant, CynthiaThe Relatives Came*
Schaefer, Lola M. One Special Day*
Seuss, Dr. The Cat in the Hat*
Seuss, Dr. Horton Hatches the Egg
Slobodkina, Esphyr Caps for Sale
Slonim, David He Came With the Couch
Slonim, David Patch
Soule, Jean Conder Never Tease a Weasel*
Spinelli, Eileen Cold Snap*
Steig, William Farmer Palmer’s Wagon Ride* (An old-fashioned word needs editing.) :)
Steig, William Amos and Boris
Taylor, Thomas Little Mouse and the Big Cupcake
Teckentrup, Britta Your Hand in My Hand
Tegen, Katherine Snowman Magic
Tullet, Herve Press Here
Van Dusen, Chris If I Built a Car*
Waber, Bernard Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile
Willems, Mo Waiting is not Easy
Wilson, Karma The Cow Loves Cookies
Zion, Gene Harry the Dirty Dog


{Mama Review} The Biggest Story

This post includes affiliate links. :) 

“We get glimpses of the garden here and there–in our hearts, in our families, in the church. But anyone who loves this story longs to see the One who is the center of the story.”

I’m so excited to share about what has quickly become hands down our favorite children’s Bible: The Biggest Story by Kevin DeYoung.

It should go without saying that no children’s “version” can compare to or replace the actual Word of God. We read from the Bible regularly with Caleb, quote it in training him throughout the day, and listen to Seeds Family Worship, which is Bible verses set to music.

But children’s Bibles, with their simpler words and memorable illustrations, can be such a great tool to further cement the stories and message of the Bible into little hearts and minds. Obviously anything less than the actual Word of God will fall short in various ways, so bear that in mind as I share why we love The Biggest Story:

  1. The first thing that jumped out at me is that The Biggest Story is all written in the third person and without any quotes. Most children’s Bibles paraphrase quotes from God, and other Biblical characters, and some take more liberties in doing so than I am comfortable with. I really appreciate that DeYoung doesn’t even try.
  2. Each chapter, beginning with Genesis, points to God’s perfection, man’s sinfulness, the need for and promise of a deliverer, and God’s faithfulness to carry out that promise despite man’s continued rebellion. DeYoung not only gets the big picture of the Bible right, he gets the point of each individual narrative right, also addressing its part in the bigger story, which is unusual in a children’s Bible. It is also deliberately God-focused, versus putting man and his needs at the center of the story.
  3. If you’ve read anything from DeYoung, you know what a gifted communicator he is. This shines through in a fresh way in his children’s Bible, which reads so easily and is enjoyable, encouraging, and edifying for us as parents, not just the children. The Biggest Story paints the Bible’s real-life drama in such an accurate yet moving way that by the time we reach the last several chapters, I’m in tears every time over God’s goodness in spite of, and contrasted with, my unworthiness.
  4. The illustrations are visually striking, such that, again, this book appeals to adults and children alike. It is rare for me to be wowed by the pictures in a large book like this, but I was. And at two-and-a-half, Caleb is captivated by every page.
  5. There is an accompanying DVD! It’s the same illustrations, simply animated, and DeYoung narrating the book, with some subtle music and sound effects. We absolutely love it!

There you have it…a few of the reasons both Andrew and I thoroughly enjoy sitting down with Caleb and The Biggest Story. I am planning start using this as a baby shower or children’s birthday gift, and I’m also looking forward to getting my hands on The Biggest Story ABC, a board book coming out in August 2017.

Have you read it? Watched the DVD? What did you think?



{Mama Tips} Read Along Books & CDs

A few weeks ago, I made an amazing discovery: read along books and CDs! We had a few growing up (on cassette) but it had escaped my memory that there are narrations available for picture books and not just chapter books. The picture books include sound effects, and Caleb is totally spellbound. Many also come with “bonus features” after the narration, such as a Q&A about the story, or a related song, and he loves those too! Some even include a Spanish track.

We’ve spent the most time utilizing them in the car, but the past few days I’ve also started having him sit on the couch and read along through a couple of books while I clean or finish meal prep. They’re an awesome alternative to screen time, which we try to reserve for a fun treat and not a daily habit, and he gets just as excited about them as he would about a show! We’ve been getting ours at the library, and I’ve been surprised to see that they still carry some cassettes as well, which would be great for anyone still driving a car that has a cassette player. :) I was also pleasantly surprised to see that Amazon carries them at very affordable prices–here’s my affiliate link if you’d like to browse their selection! So far we’ve enjoyed Froggy Gets Dressed, Harry the Dirty Dog, Blueberries for Sal, Winnie the Pooh, Polar Bear, Polar Bear, Curious George, and Clifford. (I’m not a huge fan of the Curious George or Clifford series and of course those are two of his favorites. #momlife.) Which reminds me, that’s another perk of this audiobook gig–get those titles that your kids love but you find really boring to read (am I the only one??), plop ’em down next to the boom box, and everyone goes home happy!

Happy listening! :)

{Mama Tips} How I Organize My Photos

I take a LOT of photos and videos, mostly using my iPhone 6 but sometimes with my Nikon. I used to have no system for organizing them, and it was daunting to think about finding a specific shot or creating a photo book. Not anymore! So today I’m taking a few minutes to share my photo organizing/storing method with you.

Where They’re Stored

I currently store all my photos in Dropbox, an online file storage service. I’m not particularly tied to Dropbox, and there are many other options for this out there, including Google Drive, Flickr, Shutterfly, and Photobucket to name just a few.

How They’re Organized

I store my files in folders by month. Each folder is simply named numerically for its month, e.g. “2017-06” and “2017-06 Movies” for the June 2016 photos and videos, respectively. I’ll probably eventually group these folders into bigger folders by year, as well.

How They Get There

I regularly connect my iPhone to my Mac and, using the Image Capture app, drag and drop the photos and videos in batches into their appropriate folders. These local folders then sync to my Dropbox account. Eventually, I remove the folders from my laptop so that they are no longer taking up space locally, but are still stored remotely in Dropbox. (Always double check that they’ve actually synced!)

When I use Lightroom to cull and edit my Nikon photos, I export them directly to the correct Dropbox folders as well, so all my Nikon and iPhone photos end up mixed together and organized chronologically.

That’s It! 

Wa-la! Easy-peasy. When it comes time to make a photo book or get prints, it’s a breeze to find the photos I want. What’s your preferred method of photo organization and storing? Do you have an online storage service that you love?

{Mama in the Kitchen} Paleo Treats

This post includes several Amazon affiliate links. :)

I’ve personally been gluten free for about five years now, but several months ago I also went dairy free because Eli seemed to be reacting to something I was eating. This motivated me to dive into the world of paleo cooking and baking, and I have had so. much. fun! I used to feel really overwhelmed by paleo recipes–I always seemed to be missing at least one key ingredient, or I would finally have everything and then the recipe would be a flop. Slowly but surely, thanks to more experimenting, and recommendations from friends, I am starting to figure out what I like, what can be subbed for what, and what ingredients I should keep on hand. I thought I would share that list, as well as my current Top Five go-to treats. :)

Here are the items essential to my paleo (baking) pantry, and where I generally buy them:
coconut oil (Costco)
honey (Costco)
maple syrup (Costco)
eggs (Costco)
almond flour (this one on Amazon)
coconut flour (Trader Joe’s)
arrowroot powder (this one on Amazon)
almond butter (Costco)
dairy-free dark chocolate chips (Trader Joe’s – not technically paleo depending on how they are sweetened)

If you purchase these items for less elsewhere, please fill me in!! 

Current Top Five Paleo Treats: 

  • Double Chocolate Paleo Cookies – literally the yummiest gluten free cookies I have ever had. They’re best eaten chilled! My friend brought them camping and we used them for s’mores instead of Graham crackers…amazing! Make sure you have pumpkin puree on hand. :)
  • Paleo Banana Bread – I made these into muffins. The key is to use super over-ripe bananas! The whole batch was gone in under 24 hours.
  • Crepes/Wraps – These are found in the Against All Grain Celebrations cookbook. Even my skeptical hubby really enjoys eating them like pancakes! I make them into PB&J wraps, or quesadillas for Caleb’s lunch.
  • Chocolate Chip Cookies – I would start with baking for 12 minutes…you don’t want these over-done!
  • Paleo Dutch Baby – This was such an easy and tasty breakfast. I made a strawberry compote for the bottom of the pan.

Note: Where butter is called for, I currently always use coconut oil. Ghee would be great, too, but I don’t keep it on hand.

Do you have specific go-to blogs or cookbooks? What’s your favorite paleo treat?

{Mama Journal} The Shark in My Shopping Cart

On the way into Costco recently, I grabbed a smoothie to “share” with Caleb. He enthusiastically slurped the icy treat as we started shopping. Five minutes in, he was wailing about how cold he was as goosebumps appeared all over his arms. I apologetically explained that we would be through the store as quickly as possible (and kicked myself for not anticipating this problem.)
The second Caleb caught sight of the walk-in produce refrigerator, he melted into a puddle of frantic tears, loudly begging, “DON’T TAKE ME IN THERE! I’m COLD!”

This put me in a predicament. It takes a lot of effort to get to Costco, traipse through with a whale-of-a-cart, and get the children and groceries up the stairs and into the apartment, so coming back sounded awful. At the same time, I couldn’t exactly drag a hysterical two-year-old through the crowded refrigerator. I get enough “Your hands are full” comments when he’s NOT crying. (Side note: that observation cracks me up. I have two children, not twenty.)

As internal mom-panic set in at the prospect of another Costco trip, I decided to see if they sold winter jackets in May…and that’s when I spotted the shark bathrobe. They only had it in size 5/6. Caleb is two. “He’s big for his age,” I told myself. “He’ll grow into it.”

The crisis was averted. My child was both warm AND delighted with his new robe (which, according to him, is actually a dinosaur, not a shark) and we left with the required produce.

And THAT’s how I ended up pushing a shark/dinosaur through Costco.

{Mama Tips} Camping With Babies

We just returned from a super fun two-night spring break camping trip with other seminary families. This was Caleb’s fourth time to experience the tent life, and Eli’s first. So today, I’m sharing a few lessons I’ve gleaned from my limited experience camping with littles. This list is by no means exhaustive! It’s all just off the top of my head and I would love to hear your favorite tips as well! The “What to Bring” section includes a few Amazon affiliate links. :)

Regarding Mindset 

  1. Expect very poor/very little sleep. I like to set my expectations super low, that way I’ll be pleasantly surprised and grateful if I feel at all rested when I’m camping. Goodbye, mama grumpies! 
  2. Throw healthy eating and a desire for cleanliness out the window. Camping is for enjoying junk food and playing in the mud. (Besides, dirt is a great natural source of probiotics, so that counteracts all the artificial sweeteners and food dyes, right??) But seriously…I’m pretty picky about how my son eats at home, so we all enjoy the freedom to indulge for a few days of vacation. 
  3. Likewise be willing to adjust your normal routine. Flexibility, baby! Just go with the flow and enjoy the upheaval…it’s short-lived! No sense stressing over schedule. Baby can nap in the carrier, two-year-old can skip the nap entirely (possibly after exiting his pack-n-play without permission multiple times…a purely hypothetical situation), and everyone can catch up back at home! 

What to Bring

  1. Wipes, wipes, wipes. Bring ALL THE WIPES! (I’m kind of obsessed with these Water Wipes.)
  2. More diapers than you think you’ll need. Just trust me. 
  3. A bouncer or something similar that the baby can sit up in, off the ground, to watch what’s going on around him. 
  4. A big blanket to roll around on. 
  5. A high chair/booster seat with straps to contain the toddler (depending on age) during meals. I didn’t bring this and desperately wanted it when we took 16-month-old Caleb camping. 
  6. A play yard or travel sleeper for the toddler/baby. (We love our Sleepod for this!) 
  7. Quick, easy snacks. Caleb’s favorites this trip were applesauce cups, crackers, Gogurts, and TJ’s popcorn. If you struggle to get enough protein into your kid, you can always mix flax, chia, or hemp seeds into their yogurt, oatmeal, or applesauce. 
  8. Toys for your infant. Seems obvious, but you might forget. Eli is at that age where he needs something in his hands all the time! 
  9. Sunscreen, sun hats, long-sleeved rash guard, etc. 
  10. Warm clothes (think: many layers) and warm hats for night time sleep. 
  11. Books for quiet time. It’s helpful for the toddlers/preschoolers to have a break from all the free play and just sit. Ahhhh that peaceful sound of silence and containment. 
  12. shade shack. This was soooo helpful since shade was limited and I didn’t want to lather sunscreen on Eli. It kept him happy in the middle of the action but well-sheltered. 

There you have it…the first tips that come to mind within 24 hours of a crazy fun camping adventure with our littles. What would you add to the list? 

{Mama Tips} Traveling With Littles

Caleb and I are seasoned travelers when it comes to short (2.5-3 hour) flights, and we’ve even taken Eli along a few times already! :) It’s a huge blessing that airfare to our hometown is often dirt cheap. I have no experience with cross-country or international travel with babies, which is a whole different beast when it comes to time on the plane, but these tips will apply to flights of any length. Traveling with children isn’t something to be scared of as long as you are prepared and fairly familiar with the airport, your airline’s policies, etc. This post includes a few Amazon affiliate links to gadgets/gear we have found helpful when traveling. :)


  • With some airlines, if you add a lap child to your ticket, they’ll automatically block the seat next to you so that it’s the last one to get booked if it’s not a full flight! Sometimes you can add the baby online but often you must do so over the phone.
  • If both you and your spouse are flying, book a window and an aisle seat. The middle seats are the last to get taken, so there’s a chance you’ll have an empty seat between you. If not, people will always trade a middle for a window or aisle, so you’ll end up together either way.
  • Depending on the age and temperament of your child, departing around bedtime can be handy because they might sleep on the flight.

Things to Pack

  • A no-spill sippy cup (this is my favorite). Keep it empty through security, or be prepared for it to be tested on your way through.
  • Lots of non-messy snacks in little baggies and snack traps
  • Books and interesting toys you haven’t had out recently. I Spy books can be real attention-grabbers.
  • A device with movies and toddler apps downloaded and ready to go. We like the Kindle Fire for this as it’s very affordable, a great size, and can be loaded with free movies if you have Amazon Prime! Don’t forget earbuds.
  • More diapers and wipes than you expect you’ll need
  • Copies (not originals) of the kids’ birth certificates
  • I highly recommend a backpack style diaper bag for travel. I LOVE this one from JuJuBe. (Hooray for lightening deals!) 
  • A nursing cover with 360* coverage is a total game changer if you’re seated next to a stranger. I reviewed one that I love here


  • Wear the baby/toddler through security. (If you use a ring sling with metal rings, you’ll have to take the baby off or get a pat-down. I wear my Ergo.)
  • Little ones don’t have to remove their shoes!
  • Remove wipes, baby food, etc. from the diaper bag. I’ve had mine searched multiple times because it had wipes in it. :(
  • You can bring liquids like bottled water, yogurt, etc. through security when traveling with kids, but it will be tested.

Airport Time

  • I personally have never flown with a stroller. I like being able to take escalators vs. finding elevators (they can be sparse), and I don’t want airport personnel throwing my good stroller around.
  • If at all possible, borrow a car seat in the place you are going, so that you don’t have to travel with one. But if you do bring one, the airline will gate check it for free. Look into getting a car seat travel bag.
  • If you’re checking a car seat, you might as well check your carry-on luggage (if the airline is offering that for free, sometimes they do). One less thing to wrestle on board.
  • Board at the end of the line even though you have the option of boarding first. There is no reason to spend extra time on the plane (unless you want to snag overhead space for your bags).

During the Flight

  • When you board, ask a flight attendant which bathroom has a changing table so you’re prepared.
  • Ask the flight attendants to dilute apple juice for your littles. A cup of ice chips can also be a fun distraction/snack.
  • Some airlines offer a complementary coloring book and crayons for children.
  • Be aware that you will have to unbuckle the baby from your carrier for takeoff and landing.
  • Nurse on take off and descent to help the baby’s ears adjust to the altitude change.

So that’s my little roundup of basic travel advice…what am I forgetting? What’s your number one tip or trick for traveling with littles? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below! :)

{Mama Tips} What to Do with the Coconut Oil Jar

That’s pretty nasty looking coconut oil, isn’t it? Actually it’s a smoothie! Read on…

Today’s mama tip is so very simple, and likely something you’re already doing, but it makes my life easier every week so I must share. :)  Did you know there are some wonderful jobs for used jars of all shapes and sizes? I keep my jars from pasta sauce, jam, coconut oil, olives, etc. and here are my two most common reasons why…

  • They’re great for freezing smoothies! I send smoothies to work with Andrew sometimes, and when I’m sending an old jar, I don’t have to care whether it finds its way home or not! :)
  • They’re great for freezing homemade bone broth and vegetable broth. Quart size is way too big, because I don’t usually want to thaw that much broth at one time…so I end up wasting some. But these small jars, with capacities of a cup or two, work awesome!

And while I’m on this topic, saving the plastic containers from sour cream, yogurt, etc. comes in super handy as well! I often send Andrew with leftovers in these containers so he can just toss them after lunch. If I’m taking my breakfast or lunch on the go (something I do frequently) I like to use old containers. When I’m finished, I toss it so that it doesn’t sit in the hot car and stink it up with the remnants of whatever I ate.

Basically, the less my good containers have to leave the house, the better–because we all appreciate the phenomenon that is a container with matching lid, am I right?? I actually just went through my container cupboard and was pretty bummed about how many lid-less containers and container-less lids I found. A sad story for another day.

What jars or other disposable items do you find awesome uses for?