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Milk and Cookies

with Kristen

I'm a mother of five, a bargain hunter, a recreational comparison shopper, and always trying to make more time - for me and for you, too. On this blog I'm sharing my favorite tools and finds to help make your work-life juggle a bit easier.

You can find my personal blog at Swistle.com.

Thanksgiving children’s books

Categories: Books, Holiday

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Holidays can be tricky to explain to children. Columbus Day, for example, after the children came home from school saying they’d learned (1) Columbus wasn’t supposed to be searching for America, and (2) he didn’t realize he had discovered something new, and (3) people were already living here, so isn’t that more like being a conqueror than a discoverer? “So what IS Columbus Day, Mother dear?” “A Monday off from school in October, children dear.”

Thanksgiving is tricky, too, with all the awkward issues that crop up now that we look back on it. BUT WE PERSEVERE. And this is what I love about children’s books: the authors too have struggled with how to explain it, but unlike me they have come to a conclusion, and I can read that conclusion to the children and then make modifications if necessary. (And if you’re looking for an assortment of books, all the books in this post qualify as of posting time for Amazon’s 4-for-3 deal: if you add four books to your cart, one of them will automatically be free.)

Thanksgiving is For Giving Thanks (photo from Amazon.com). “Yes, yes, pilgrims and Indians,” this book seems to say, “But perhaps it would be better at this point in history to focus on the MODERN meaning.” The things we eat! The things we are currently thankful for!
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Favorite books from young adulthood (and old childhood)

Categories: Books

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Paul reads to the kids each night, but because they’re so spread out in age, he reads to them in three groups: first to just Henry (age 4), then to Elizabeth and Edward (age 6), and then to Rob and William (12 and 10). (The plan is to eventually combine the two younger groups, but right now Henry is still a little disruptive in a group and does better one-on-one.) Henry still likes picture books. Elizabeth and Edward like the short chapter books like the Franny K. Stein series. But Rob and William are in YOUNG ADULT. Well, or maybe in “old childhood”—they don’t quite go for the ones about pimples and dating yet.

Old Childhood / Young Adult is a strange field to navigate, especially if you have children who are a little…sensitive about scary or violent stuff. Young Adult assumes that kids can start to handle some more serious plotlines: some social commentary, some unhappy home life, some not-always-turning-out-right, some GRIM.

I like to put a book in each kid’s Christmas stocking, so I’ve been thinking about some of my favorite books from when I was that approximate age range.

Beloved Benjamin is Waiting, by Jean Karl (photo from Amazon.com). As a child and young adult, I loved the sort of books where children had to handle their own care. In this one, a girl named Lucinda has a family life that has disintegrated to the point where it’s no longer safe for the children to live there. Lucinda hides in the abandoned caretaker house in a graveyard, hiding not only from her home life but from a gang of kids that starts picking on her. In the caretaker house is a broken monument statue of a little boy—and the statue starts talking with her. I looked this up at my library but they no longer have a copy, so I ordered a used one from Amazon. Childhood books are often disappointing when re-read as an adult, so I’m a little worried, but I also wonder if my kids might be as fascinated with it as I was.
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Supplies for a sick day

Categories: Books, Crafts and activities, Gifts, Health and Safety, Life balance, Managing stress, Toys

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This week a little virus sped through our household: sore throats and 103-degree fevers for everyone except me. If I ever wondered if I might have been a good and kind and angelic nurse in, say, an army tent with rows of patients, the answer is “Probably not.” Six people asking for more juice, more water, a blanket, the remote, maybe another piece of toast, was pretty much all I could handle pleasantly, and probably the adverb “pleasantly” is pushing it a bit, even in much nicer conditions and with much less upsetting illness/injuries than would be in an army tent.

There are certain things I keep in the house always, so I have them on hand when illness visits us and don’t have to add “running to the store” to my toast-fetching list:
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Summer reading list

Categories: Books

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It’s not like I have more time during the summer than during the rest of the year, but I persist in thinking of it as a time for lying around on the beach and reading. Ha ha ha! But anyway.

Stories I Only Tell My Friends, by Rob Lowe (photo from Amazon.com). I put this on my list after being assured by many reviewers that it was the GOOD kind of celebrity autobiography, rather than the kind that makes you go totally off the celebrity. I concur: I had many eye-rolling moments, and yet I came away from it wanting to see more of what Rob Lowe had done.


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Favorite craft gifts for kids

Categories: Books, Crafts and activities, Gifts, Toys

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What I laughingly call a “craft bin” at our house is in fact a tower of disaster: a bunch of stacking baskets (like these) that we got for free at the dump, filled to a teeter with the litter of a decade’s worth of “Just toss that in the craft bin.” Several half-used packages of card stock. Sheets of felt, partially cut into. Rubber stamps—where is the stamp pad? Stickers that came with charity pleas. A protractor that came in a kit of school supplies. Foam letters spilling out of a bag. Empty Play-Doh containers—what the heck? A package of beads, a package of jingle bells, a package of popsicle sticks. A bunch of craft books we always think someone will want to leaf through for ideas, but no one ever does. Clearly there needs to be a heavy cleaning-out, but this is the sort of area where as soon as I throw something away, a child wants it for a project.

Despite the oppressive nature of our own craft bins (and, as I know from babysitting and nannying, other people’s craft bins), craft supplies remains one of my favorite gifts for children’s parties. They’re the kind of gift that tends to pass parental inspection, even with all the things parents can object to (”girl” vs. “boy” toys, violent toys, toys that perpetuate beauty culture, toys from particular countries, princess toys, a certain brand of toys with an amusement-park tie-in, TV/movie-tie-in toys, “cheap plastic crap,” etc. etc. etc.), and in general they tend to be gifts that work no matter what the particular child is interested in: not every child likes crafts, of course, but statistically-speaking (and if you have to take a certain risk with the gift anyway), more of them like crafts than like, say, Bakugan.


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