Category Archives: Books (and other stuff) We Love

Change to Change

Recently, I’ve been reading a book for work. It’s called Stop Selling Vanilla Ice Cream by Steve Van Remortel. It’s not really about trying to ban vanilla ice cream from the supermarket shelves. I mean, really, who would want that?! It’s about differentiating your company through strategy and talent development.

So, to be clear, the reason I’m reading it is because I have to for work. But, I do not have to write a post about it for work. Haven’t been asked to. Not being paid to. And, actually, this post isn’t really about the book. But in the spirit of full disclosure, I wanted to share that.

Now, on to my point.

As I read the book, I’m finding tidbits that pertain to family, household, personal life–not just the business world.

I read this sentence:

“If nothing ever changes…nothing will ever change.”

Think on that for a minute.

If nothing ever changes…nothing will ever change.

If I don’t ever change the way I eat, if I don’t change the way I exercise (or the fact that I don’t)…I will never lose weight or be fit.

If I don’t ever change my messy habits…I will never have a neat house.

If I don’t ever change the way I manage money…I will never have more savings.

If I don’t ever spend more time in prayer and Bible study…I will never have a closer relationship to God.

The list goes on!

What can you insert into the blanks?

If I don’t ever change _______________…I will never_______________.

My take away is this: if there’s something in my life that I’m not satisfied with, how can I expect it to improve if I don’t take action and initiate the change?

Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are?

No, I probably didn’t and if I did, you probably wouldn’t listen to me. But, you don’t have to. Listen to Dr. Suess instead.

Did I EverHis book, Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are? has been one of my favorites for as long as I can remember. My copy was given to me by my parents as a Christmas gift when I was five.

As a child, I loved the fun illustrations, made up words and rhyme. Some of my favorites were the borfin that shlumps every night and Herbie Hart’s thromdibulator.

Now, as an adult, I like the message. Be thankful. Recognize that no matter how bad your predicament, you’re better off than some. So be thankful.

“When you think things are bad, when you feel sour and blue, when you start to get mad…you should do what I do! Just tell yourself, Duckie, you’re really quite lucky! Some people are much more…oh, ever so much more…oh, muchly much-much more unlucky than you!”


“You ought to be thankful, a whole heaping lot, for the places and people you’re lucky you’re not!”


“Thank goodness for all of the things you are not!”

And, finally,

“That’s why I say, “Duckie! Don’t grumble! Don’t stew! Some critters are much-much, oh, ever so much-much, so muchly much-much more unlucky than you!”

What a terrific lesson for all of us!

A few weeks ago, I agreed to be a guest reader in my son’s class. I chose this book and was scheduled to read it to them this morning.

Timing. Is. Everything.

It’s been a rough 24 hours. I recently wrote about my husband’s new job. It’s still going great. He got his second paycheck today. But last night, about 30 minutes into his 90 minute ride home, the 2001 Honda Odyssey he was driving died. Long story short, the transmission (it’s second one) died. Well, no way were we putting a third one in a 9 year old vehicle with 125,000 miles on it.

So we had to buy a car.


More than two years of unemployment and only two paychecks under our belt.

Hardly ready for a car payment!


We’re more ready than we were a month ago, so it could have been worse.

We might not have had the resources to be able to go ahead and purchase a vehicle at all. It could have been worse.

We might not have been able to find an affordable and reliable vehicle. It could have been worse.

I may have sat around grumbling and stewing today, and, honestly, I had a tear in my eye as I read the first few pages to the class. As I continued, though, I was reminded that even though sometimes it feels like we never catch a break, we are far better off than so many.

stratusBut day is nearly done now and we are the owners of a 2006 low-mileage, great condition Dodge Stratus that we bought from the Nice Car Company in Ottawa Lake, Michigan.

And, now Michael can park in the good parking lot when he goes to work at Chrysler and he’ll get better gas mileage, too.

Overall, we’re a couple of Lucky Duckies!

Worst. mother. ever.

I recently read a post by Pauline Karwowski over at Classy Chaos entitled  I can’t make this stuff up. #worstmomoftheyear. In it, she tells the tale of how her beautiful daughter ended up wearing a cheerleading costume to preschool on picture day. I encourage you to read the post, it’s very entertaining, but the short version is–she (Pauline, aka Mommy) forgot it was picture day. gasp!

Never one to be outdone, I have now become the worst. mother. ever., thereby beating Pauline.

You see tonight was, well, chaotic. Michael ran out and picked up Subway and Marco’s for dinner (we can never all agree on one restaurant, it seems). As is our norm on nights like these, we let the kids set their little lap desks up in front of the TV and serve them their dinner in the living room.

He came home, we rushed around the kitchen plating up the subs, pouring drinks and delivering everything to them. Then we sat down in the adjacent dining room to eat our meals. Normally, we would have sat on the sofa to eat, but it was too piled up with folded laundry, so we sat in the other room.

Part way through my meal, Leah, who doesn’t like Subway very much, asked for a second helping of Wheaties Fuel, a new cereal that she apparently liked enough to ask for seconds, which says a lot about this cereal that contains 5 grams of dietary fiber per serving. But I digress.

So, I refilled her bowl. Two trips into the living room. First with the cereal, then with the milk.

Back to my dinner.

A bit later, Leah asked for a third bowl of the cereal. Third trip to living room for cereal refill. While I was there, Noah asked me to bring him the rest of his sub when I came back with the milk. Sure thing!

Fourth trip to living room…milk. check. Noah’s sub. check.

Then I saw Sarah. Dear little 2 year old Sarah. Sitting at her little desk right between Leah and Zachary. Her little empty desk. I FORGOT TO FIX HER ANY DINNER!

worst. mother. EVER.

Literature Evaluation

That’s a fancy way of saying Book Review.

I’m kicking off my Books We Love series with Fancy Nancy. Before I begin telling you why we think these books are so wonderful, let me tell you how we were introduced to her.

When he was in first grade, Noah came home with a paper he had done in school. It was a picture he had drawn with the sentence, “It reminded me of my mom.” So the ensuing conversation went like this:

Me: “What reminded you of me?”

Noah: “Mrs. Farnan read us a book today.”

Me: “What was the book?”

Noah: “Fancy Nancy.”

Me (beaming with pride): “Do I remind you of Fancy Nancy?”

Noah: “No, you remind me of her mother.”

Me (still hopeful): “Is her mother fancy, too?”

Noah: “No, she’s very, very plain.”

Me (crushed): “Oh.”

I may have been crushed, but I was also intrigued (that’s a fancy word for curious). We read the first book and we all enjoyed it, but my daughter (who was 4 at the time) and I were hooked!

Here’s how I would describe Nancy. She’s not a princess or a fairy or a ballerina. She’s a bright girl who loves all things, well, fancy. She loves french words–because, “everything in french sounds fancy.” She has an extensive vocabulary–after all, big words make what we say fancier. And when it comes to accessories and decorating, her mantra is “more is more!”

100_2544Here’s how Leah, now 6, describes Nancy. She’s fancy. Her whole name rhymes–fancy Nancy Clancy. I like her because she really likes fancy stuff and she wears her hair all up on her head. She also likes how it’s written in “cursive.”  (She asked the other day if I thought “they” got cursive writing from Fancy Nancy.)

The author, Jane O’Connor is one sly lady! Through her use of “fancy words” she’s building the vocabularies of young girls everywhere! She also sneaks in fun facts and little life lessons along the way so the readers are learning without even knowing it.

Among the many lessons, young readers learn:

  • not to leave their homework until the last minute
  • how to work together with someone who is very different from themselves
  • the importance of sharing…even sharing your best friend
  • about constellations like the Big Dipper
  • map and exploring skills
  • about nature
  • how to make a pine cone bird feeder
  • etiquette
  • how to improvise and overcome disappointment
  • and, maybe the most important lesson–ice cream is perfect whether you’re celebrating or soothing disappointments!

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the captivating illustrations by Robin Preiss Glasser. She has captured the essence of Fancy Nancy beautifully!

Leah and I highly recommend any and all of the Fancy Nancy books as a magnificent supplement (that’s fancy for great addition) to your library!

So many books, so little time.

Nature vs. nurture. It’s the age old question when it comes to parenting. Our children love to read. Personally, I think they were born with an affinity for books–nature. But, My husband and I have encouraged that affinity at every turn–nurture.

100_4612We began reading to our children when they were just weeks old.

Once our oldest son was crawling, he would crawl to the bookshelf before he would crawl to the toys.

I remember our oldest daughter sitting on the floor with a book when she was 3. She started crying. When I asked her why, she said, “I don’t know what the words say.” Another time, I remember her looking at the title of the book and declaring the letters were all mixed up. (She had realized for the first time that they weren’t in ABC order like the song.)

Our youngest son, was a little harder to motivate. Once he got in school, he was expected to read books that challenged him. The trouble was, in order to challenge his reading ability, the content was too mature. He was in first grade. He still wanted pictures and large-print. Eventually, he found some books he loved and it was like flipping a switch.

Our youngest, now 2, amazed us months ago with her first sentence, “I’ll read!”

Our nightly routine includes family story time before bedtime.reading together cropped for blog

If you can’t read, someone will read to you.

If you’re learning to read, you’ll read to someone.

If you are an established reader, you’ll read to yourself.

Occasionally, we’ll read a book together.

100_1435While many parents struggle to get their kids to read, we often have to tell them, “Put the book down and go outside.” or “No, you can’t read just one more page–it’s time for bed.” A fact we’re really not complaining about.

One of our fondest Christmas traditions is sitting in front of the tree on Christmas Eve reading The Night Before Christmas. I used to read it. Now, I mostly listen.100_2210

We have more than 1,000 books in our collection of children’s books–including little board books to classic novels and everything in between. So it seems fitting that we share our love of books with others. Thus, a new category begins on My Chaotic Bliss: “Books We Love.” Future posts will highlight some of our favorite authors and titles.

We hope you’ll find something here to share with your children and that you’ll suggest your favorites to us.