Building out Littlebug’s Library – Bookroo Subscription
Littlebug’s two favorite things lately are babies and books.  She loves to take care of her babies by changing their diapers, feeding them and patting their backs while they sleep.  But, even more than that, this kid loves to read!  If she ever gets a little too quiet, I usually find her somewhere with a stack of books surrounding her, “reading” to herself or to her babies.  
While we have amassed a decent collection of children’s books over the years, I’ve really wanted to add to the library in Littlebug’s room.  So, when the lovely folks at Bookroo reached out asking if we’d like to participate in a product review, I jumped at the opportunity!  
If you don’t know already, Bookroo is a children’s book subscription service that delivers new books to your door every month.   All you need to do is select the plan that works best for you (month-to-month, 3 months or 6 months) and the type of books you want (3 board books or 2 picture books) and presto!  Books show up at your door like magic!!  
Here’s what I love as a parent: The subscription price for the books is less than retail.  So, not only do you get new children’s books at your door, but you’re getting them at a great price too!  Plus, the cost of shipping is included in the subscription price.  So, no added costs!
Here’s what the kids love about it:  They are getting new books.  And the books arrive wrapped up like presents! 
Bookroo 1
Who doesn’t love opening presents?  It makes the whole experience so much more exciting!Bookroo 3

The Bookroo team selects books based on personal experience and recommendations from parents.  So, you can feel confident that the books will be fun and entertaining.  Ours certainly were!  I think we read our two picture books at least 20 times in the first week and they are still in pretty heavy rotation!Bookroo 5
The kids couldn’t get enough!  If they weren’t listening to us reading their new books to them, they were flipping through the books on their own.  Bookroo 7

And sometimes, they would settle in together and Lovebug would read to Littlebug.  Books and sisters are the best!Book 4

And if you get a book you already have, you just send the awesome Bookroo team a picture of you giving the book to someone else and they’ll give you a $5 credit on your next subscription!  They’ve thought of everything!Bookroo 8

Want more good news?  Right now Bookroo is running a buy one, give one promotion for new customers!  So, you can not only get a subscription for yourself, but you can gift one free!  How awesome is that!?  

If you have a young book lover in your life or if you are trying to inspire a future book lover, head on over to Bookroo’s website and give this subscription a try.  I promise you will not be sorry!
To the Jane and Bookroo team – THANK YOU for helping us build out Littlebug’s book collection!  You made my little book lovers so happy!
NOTE: This is a sponsored post, however all comments and opinions are my own.
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Preschool Graduation Gift Idea for Girls

Lovebug has graduated from Pre-K!  Next stop, KINDERGARTEN!!!!  Woot woot!!

I really wanted to get her something special and sentimental to celebrate her preschool graduation.  But, what?   I racked my brain (and the internet) and kept coming up short.   Then, I randomly remembered an interaction from high school and just like that I had her gift figured out.

The perfect preschool graduation gift for girls is a charm bracelet!!!

Trust me, its’ true.  And here’s how I know…
On one of the last days of high school, I was chatting with a classmate and commented on her cute bracelet.  She wasn’t a particularly girl-y girl, so it caught my attention.  She told me it was a charm bracelet that her parents had given her when she was younger to celebrate something she had accomplished (I don’t recall what the initial accomplishment was).  Over the years, they would recognize her hard work by adding charms to her bracelet.  By the time I had seen it, her bracelet was covered in charms (some loops were even doubled up with charms) and she went through each and every one proudly telling me what it was, when she got it and what it represented.  There were charms for swim meets, spelling bees, dance recitals, trips, gymnastics meets, little things she had done that her parents were proud of, special events, challenges she overcame, etc.

Her charm bracelet really told the story of her life and it was obvious to me that she cherished it more than anything.  She was beaming with pride as she talked to me about it and she happened to be wearing it that week in anticipation of the new graduation cap charm she was looking forward to getting for our high school graduation.  
I loved everything about that bracelet and her story and knew I wanted to do the same thing for my girls, should I be lucky enough to have them one day.  And here I am, years later, with two precious girls and the perfect opportunity to start the same thing.
So, we got Lovebug a simple bracelet with an adjustable clasp so that she could grow into it.
We also picked out the first charm for her bracelet.  A book with ABC inscribed on it. 
Charm Bracelet 1
Throughout preschool, particularly this year as she started to read, learning her ABC’s was the main focus.  So, this cute book seemed like the perfect charm to represent this occasion.  
We surprised her with dinner at one of her favorite restaurants and presented her gift.  She loved it and I’m sure she will treasure it more as we add to it over the years, just as my friend from high school did.

I couldn’t be more proud of the sweet, intelligent, funny, strong willed, independent, thoughtful and caring young lady she has become and I feel so blessed to be able to witness her successes in life and the challenges she faces and overcomes.   The little keepsake charms that will eventually fill out this bracelet will be a lovely reminder of her journey.

Note: Neither the bracelet nor the charm were particularly expensive.  Altogether, we paid about $25 for this gift.  Based on my research, any additional charms we get her will be under $10, unless we get them engraved, which we may do on occasion.  

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I love to read. I mean, seriously, loooooove to read.  Unfortunately, between family, work and life, I don’t have nearly as much time as I would like for reading.  But, I try to read a few chapters of a book every night before bed to get my fix.  I have to be careful though, because if a book captures my interest I will stay up into the wee hours of the night devouring it just to see what happens.  A decision I savor in the moment, but regret immediately when I am woken up before dawn by one or both of my little ladies (don’t they know mommy was up late reading!?!).  

Anyhow, I recently finished reading The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins and, oh my gosh, how I loved it!   Have you read it?  If not, you should pick it up because it is crazy good!  In general, I don’t gravitate towards murder mysteries or thrillers, but there are so many layers to this book that there wasn’t one thing I disliked about it.  The character development was great, reading the story through different perspectives was interesting and the way the plot unfolded was incredibly dramatic.  Seriously, this was one of those books that I felt like I needed to talk about it in order to fully process.   

So, I thought I’d suggest that you read it so we can discuss!  Ready? Go! 🙂

While I’m at it, I thought I’d share with you some of my other favorite (and not so favorite) books in the hopes that you could make recommendations for me?  I have precious little time for reading, so I’d love for you to tell me what books I should pick up and which ones I should steer clear of.  

(in no particular order)

My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult

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The Help by Kathryn Stockett

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Rules of Civility by Amor Towles

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The Red Tent by Anita Diamant

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The Other Boleyn Girl by Phillipa Gregory

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The Kite Runner by Khale Hosseini

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The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

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The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd

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I swear I read all these books before there was even talk of making them into movies!   Thankfully, the movies haven’t disappointed (or worse yet ruined!) the books!

Unfortunately, I am one of  those people who just cannot put a book down, no matter how much I dislike it.  I just have to  finish it to see what happens but, more importantly, I have to push through because the optimist in me believes that it has to get better and I don’t want to miss it when it does.  Side note – It almost never gets better.  You’d think I’d learn but not so much. 🙁

Here are a few books that I wasn’t much of a fan of.

Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

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I know so many people who LOVE this book so I had high hopes for it.  But, I literally had to force myself to sit down and read it.  I am a romantic at heart, but I found the novel to be dry, slow and boring.  This is one of the only books I seriously considered giving up on and in retrospect, I wish I had.  

Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire

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I decided to pick up this book because the Broadway show had received rave reviews.  We had tickets to see the show live when it was here in Arizona, so I wanted to read the book before seeing the performance.  For some reason, I had it in my head that I shouldn’t watch a show before reading the book, just like I would never watch a movie without reading the book first.   I sincerely wish I hadn’t.  I had such a hard time getting into it and it took me forever to read it because I just wasn’t interested.  The live show, however, was fantastic!  So,  moral of this store is, skip the book and watch the show.  You’re welcome. 🙂

Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

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My main issue with this book was that I had a difficult time connecting with her.  I was a newlywed and in a completely different place in life, so I just couldn’t get into it.  I read this book at the height of its popularity and I was just plain disappointed.  I heard so many people say how it spoke to them and changed their life, but it did not have that affect on me. Not even close.  But, what was worse, was that I wasn’t entertained, inspired or educated by reading it.  

There you have it.  Books I really enjoy and books I didn’t like so much.  Have you read these books?  If so, what did you think of them?  Most importantly, knowing this, what books would you recommend for me?  Let me know! 

This post contains affiliate links.  But, as always, all opinions are my own.
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FR-AMILY = Friends So Close You Consider Them Family
Do you have fr-amily in your life?  You know, friends so close that they have become an extension of your family?
We have four individuals in our world that we love so much that they have become part of our inner circle and whom we lovingly refer to as our fr-amily.

While we were blessed to make close bonds with several families here in Arizona, we found ourselves gravitating towards one family, in particular.   The M’s had similar interests, enjoyed the same foods, traveled to similar places and had the same easygoing approach to things as My Love and I.  Plus, like us, they had moved to Arizona and did not have family in town. 

Since neither of us had family around, we spent many holidays together as well as with other mutual friends, when we weren’t traveling ourselves.  It started with an Easter celebration one year, then the next year we spent Easter and New Years together.  The following year, we celebrated Easter, Thanksgiving and New Years together until, eventually, we had shared every major holiday with our good friends, the M’s.  
After many holidays, the births of several kids and a handful of vacations together, the word “fr-amily” was born.  While we weren’t related biologically, we cared for each other deeply and stepped in for one another where family normally would.  So, the name was fitting. 
Kelly and I met at book club 7 years ago
Our hubbies became instant friends when they met at a bowling alley
and our girls have grown up together
Unfortunately for us, the M’s got the opportunity to move back to their hometown last year so our fr-amily holidays together were numbered.  This will be the first year that we have not shared a single major holiday with the M’s and it has been an adjustment.  We miss them dearly and holidays just don’t seem the same without them.  While we are happy that they were able to move back home, selfishly, we wish they were still here.
Our girls saying goodbye at the airport
We wanted the M’s to know that we’ll be thinking of them this holiday season and how thankful we are to have them in our lives, so we decided to send them a care package.  We normally exchange Christmas gifts so I thought we could just send our gifts a little early this year. 
In addition to Christmas gifts for their children, I also really wanted to make something homemade for the family that would call to mind Arizona and/or some of the holidays we shared.  I knew I found just the thing when I saw these DIY Snowman Sharpie Mugs online. 
I followed the instructions provided here but made them even more personalized by adding a little note on the bottom of the mugs.  It makes me happy to think that they’ll be reminded of us every time they tip their cups up.

I also made some hot chocolate recipe cards that reminded me of some of the holidays we shared together.
Gingerbread Hot Chocolate  – This reminded me of the first Thanksgiving we spent together.  We hosted at our house so the M’s joined in on our Graham Cracker Gingerbread House tradition.
Peppermint Hot Chocolate Affogato –  We served this for dessert a couple years ago when we had the M’s over for Christmas dinner.
S’More Hot Chocolate – This reminded me of the last New Years we spent together where the kids (and some of the adults) made s’mores over a warm fire before lighting up some sparklers.
Lastly, I included this adorable card that I created at Treat. by Shutterfly.  It captured our feelings perfectly while allowing us to personalize the card and completed the package in just the right way.
I packaged everything up and shipped it off to our amazing fr-amily.  Hopefully, they’ll feel the love (and warmth!) we send them from Arizona! 
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My sister and her boyfriend gave Lovebug a Kiwi Crate subscription for Christmas a couple years ago and she absolutely LOVED it!  In fact, she enjoyed it so much we purchased a subscription ourselves to continue receiving these lovely green boxes at our door. 

Several months ago, I included Kiwi Crates in one of my So Into posts and said I would provide an in depth product review.  So, I’m finally following through on that promise.

Kiwi Crate
Just to be clear, I am not affiliated with Kiwi Crate and this is not a sponsored post.  This is a product that we really enjoy and something I would recommend to friends and family.  So, I thought I’d share my thoughts and experiences with you.
Here’s how it works:

Once a month a little green box addressed to Lovebug arrives at our door. She gets super excited that she has received a package addressed to her and even more excited that she has some “projects” to work on!
Kiwi Crate

We open the box to find out the fun projects we have in store. The boxes are tailored for specific age groups and there are usually 2-3 projects in the box.  This particular box was sent in September.

Kiwi Crate

We pull out the neatly packaged materials and organize them by project.

Kiwi Crate

Then we decide which project to start on.   Lovebug wanted to work on the castle first.

Kiwi Crate

We open the instructions to see what materials they’ve supplied and if we need to gather any materials from home.  The materials from home are always things we have on hand, like scissors or water.  They supply everything else, including glue, markers, pencils, cups, etc.

Kiwi Crate

Then, we get started on the project by following the instructions.  Kiwi Crate does a fantastic job of illustrating and writing the instructions so kids can follow along, whether they read or not.

Kiwi Crate

The activities are really age appropriate as well, so Lovebug is able to do everything on her own, although she might ask for guidance every now and again.  In this project, Lovebug had to pop pieces off of a sheet of cardboard.
Kiwi Crate

Then, she assembled the castle.  (Sorry for the blurry pictures below… Lovebug was excited to do her project and didn’t really have time for mommy to snap photos!)

Kiwi Crate

She made some flags for her castle.

Kiwi Crate

And assembled the castle the way she wanted.

Kiwi Crate

Next, she got to dress up the characters (king, queen, jester and knight) and decorate her castle with stickers provided. 

Kiwi Crate

And her castle was done and ready to be played with!

 Kiwi Crate

What’s nice is that the instructions often give ideas and suggestions of what to do with the project and/or how to continue the project beyond the activity in the box. 

Kiwi Crate

The second activity in her box was to build a small catapult.   We started by gathering our materials.

Kiwi Crate

Then we reviewed what they sent us and checked if we needed any materials from home, which we didn’t.

Kiwi Crate

Then she started assembling, based on the instructions.

Kiwi Crate

In my experience, the projects take about 10-15 minutes to complete from start to finish.  Plus, once the projects are complete, Lovebug generally spends at least another 15-30 minutes playing with the project immediately after it’s done and then picks it up from time to time beyond that.  So, all in all, each Kiwi Crate project keeps Lovebug occupied for 20-45 minutes.

Kiwi Crate

And a little while later, we had a catapult!  The beauty of the Kiwi Crate is that it really encourages coordination and facilitates exploration.  In this case, we were able to make minor adjustments to our catapult to see if it impacted the height and/or distance the balls would travel.  Also, the crate included some soft pom pom balls as well as a small plastic ball so we could compare which would go farther and talk about why there might be differences.  We love that the crates are educational and fun too!

Kiwi Crate

We are big, big fans of Kiwi Crate…. Lovebug enjoys being able work on a project independently and is so proud when she completes a project all by herself.  And I love them because it’s so nice to be able to pull out an age appropriate project with quality materials and know that Lovebug will be occupied for a good chunk of time with minimal supervision.  Plus, the activities are always fun and educational while encouraging curiosity and exploration.   Honestly, I can’t say enough good things about Kiwi Crate. 

They offer various subscription options and are, in my opinion, well worth the investment.  Plus, they make fantastic gifts!  I highly recommend Kiwi Crate so go check them out! 

If you are interested in purchasing a subscription, you can get $10 off your first order by clicking here.

Let me know if you have any questions.

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