Monthly Archives

August 2016

    adult books, book reviews

    What to Expect When You’re Expecting: Pre and PostNatal Care

    Thank you Workman Publishing, for sponsoring this post. Pick up your copy of the new fifth edition What To Expect When You’re Expecting anywhere books are sold.

    When I was pregnant with my first child, I was glued to pregnancy and parenting books like What to Expect When You’re Expecting.  Every week like clockwork I’d whip out my pregnancy book and follow the development of baby like a student cramming for a PHD in Obstetrics. I could tell you exactly when her fingernails formed, when her taste buds began to develop, and when she started hiccuping in the womb.  I think a first pregnancy brings out the neurosis in some women (especially me) and every stray kick, twinge or hiccup sends you flying to the bookshelf for confirmation that baby is okay.


    If you’re currently expecting a baby, I’d highly recommend picking up the latest edition of What to Expect® When You’re Expecting to incorporate into your everyday life.  It is now in a brand new 5th edition with a fresh perspective, up-to-the-minute information and advice, and the same friendly, reassuring voice that has made the book a bestseller for decades. In addition to bringing Dad into the book throughout, it answers every imaginable question expecting parents could ask and offers solutions for every pregnancy and postpartum symptom.  All medical coverage is completely updated, including everything expectant moms need to know about the Zika virus. Current lifestyle trends are incorporated too: juice bars, raw diets, e-cigarettes, push presents, baby bump posting, the lowdown on omega-3 fatty acids, grass-fed and organic, health food fads, and GMOs.


    I don’t know about you, but during both of my pregnancies the two most important topics for me were prenatal and postnatal care.  Of course I was concerned about that “in-between phase” of actually being pregnant during the 40 weeks, but it was also important for me to learn about different ways to take care of myself before and after once baby finally arrived.  Practicing self-care is so important both during and after pregnancy.  That was something I sometimes had to force myself to do as I was so caught up in making sure the baby was healthy.  At times, my own self-care took a back seat – this was especially true during my first pregnancy.  Now I understand the importance of pre and postnatal care and try to encourage new moms-to-be to explore these topics during their pregnancy journey.

    The thing that I think sets this book apart from the rest and why it’s still going strong five editions later is the sheer level of detail. There’s advice on preparing your body for conception, early pregnancy signs, and thorough sections dedicated to each month of your pregnancy. There’s also loads of postpartum advice and a very sympathetically written chapter on how to cope when things don’t go to plan (the complicated pregnancy). It’s funny (in some places), informative, and incredibly well organized.  I think the thing I love most about this book is how it and aims to answer any question (no matter how minor or ridiculous) you might have about your pregnancy journey. With a superior index for quick referencing, I think it definitely deserves its accolade of being the world’s bestselling pregnancy manual.


    Here’s a snippet of some of the prenatal and postnatal topics featured throughout:

    Prenatal Testing

    • Expanded genetic screening (pp. 48–53)
    • Prenatal screening and diagnosis, including NIPTs (pp. 53–61)
    • First-trimester ultrasound (p. 170), plus 3D and 4D ultrasound (p. 322)

    Staying Fit

    • Pregnancy exercises you can do anywhere, anytime (including at your desk) (p. 231)
    • Choosing the right workout for two (from barre to Pilates, Crossfit to Spinning) (pp. 235–238)

    Mental Health and Emotional Wellbeing

    • Pregnancy depression, panic attacks, and anxiety disorder (pp. 174–177)
    • Managing stress (pp. 145–149)
    • Safety of antidepressants (pp. 44–46)
    • Postpartum depression, anxiety, OCD, and PTSD (pp. 495–503)
    • Dad’s mood swings and depression, during pregnancy and postpartum (p. 176)

    Postpartum and Beyond

    • More on postpartum symptoms and solutions (pp. 460–521)
    • Babywearing for baby blues (pp. 496–497)
    • Getting started breastfeeding (pp. 478–487)
    • Tandem breastfeeding (pp. 484–485)

    As many moms will probably testify, motherhood usually does come down to mere survival. Kids get sick. Laundry becomes an endless abyss. You are functioning on a level that is simply trying to keep everyone afloat. If you’re going to make it through those times, you need to be taking care of yourself.  That includes before, during and after pregnancy.  As moms, we need to be at our best in order to make it through the worst times.

    FullSizeRender (3)

    Read this book to learn some valuable tips and gain incredible insight on pregnancy from pre-conception to delivery and everything in between. Following the advice outlined in this book may help you have more energy, more patience and more confidence in yourself as a mother.  Pick it up for yourself or gift it to a friend, daughter or niece at your next baby shower.  I think they’ll appreciate you introducing them to the most beloved and trusted pregnancy book.

    To learn more about this book check out the website: What to Expect When You’re Expecting.

    I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

    Your turn: Did you read this book during your pregnancy?  What are your best tips for prenatal and postnatal care?  Feel free to share in the comments.

    book reviews, children's books, read aloud

    Puffy: People Whose Hair Defies Gravity (A Book Review)

    Puffy: People Whose Hair Defies Gravity by Aya de León

    This is a children’s book of text and photographs featuring kids, teens, adults, and families with naturally puffy hair. Writer/performer/educator Aya de León put out a call for photos. Individuals and families from far and wide submitted pictures that reflect the pride, wonder, and delight that so many people feel in having hair that defies gravity. We live in a world that works to subdue the natural exuberance of children in a myriad of ways, and this includes attempts to subdue their hair. The Puffy Hair Project is a celebration of the authentic, untamed self as expressed through our hair. The selection of photos primarily reflects people of the African diaspora, and it includes people of Asian, Latina/Latino, Arab, and Jewish heritage, as well. It is designed to provide puffy-haired kids with positive images, and to provide all of us with an opportunity to celebrate the wonderful diversity of our world. The text is inspired by the simple yet memorable style of Dr. Seuss: “Puffy here. Puffy there. Yay! I love my puffy hair.”

    I love the idea behind the Puffy Hair Project!  This book celebrates naturally kinky and curly hair and allows little readers to see positive images of people who look like them.  I’m so happy with the paradigm shift that has taken place over the past few years.  It allowed me to abandon the chemicals, love the natural hair I was born with, and cross over to “team natural”.  In addition, it allowed me to pass on the pride and love I have for my hair onto my two children.

    The shift also sparked a movement that encouraged authors like Aya de León to write books about natural hair.  I think it’s important for parents and caregivers to read books like this one with children in order to have open and honest discussions about the unspoken beauty standards that are imposed on young girls (and boys).

    puffyayadeleon (2)

    I love the catchy repetitive text that’s featured throughout: “Puffy here.  Puffy there.  Yay!  I love my puffy hair.”  The photographs are beautiful and showcase little girls, boys, men and women of different skin tones sporting their natural hair.  While most of the images in the book are of African-Americans, the book also features Jewish, Latina, Arab and Asian people with puffy hair, as well as many different types of families and people with disabilities.  The last few pictures show little sleepyheads who are fast asleep making it a cute book to read for a bedtime story.  My kids love reciting the rhyming text along with me as I read it aloud with them.  A short and sweet story that celebrates diversity and teaches children the importance of loving themselves just the way they are.

    About the Author
    Aya de León is a children’s book author, writer/performer for adults working in poetry, fiction, and hip hop theater.  Her work has received acclaim in the Village Voice, Washington Post, SF Chronicle, and has been featured on Def Poetry, in Essence Magazine, and various anthologies and journals.  For more information about Aya please visit her website or follow her on Twitter.

    Your turn:  Have you read this book yet?  Feel free to share in the comments.

    family fun, literary road trip series

    Literary Road Trip Series: Launch Trampoline Park + A Giveaway!

    Disclaimer :: Launch Trampoline Park sponsored this post and allowed our family to enjoy a complimentary experience. The information and opinions — including the sore muscles — are completely my own.

    Trampoline parks have been popping up all around the Northeast thanks to Ty Law, a retired NFL cornerback who was a three-time Super Bowl Champion with the New England Patriots.  Ty Law had the idea to start the Launch franchises in New England a few years ago because it provided an opportunity to manage a business remotely and with great returns, according to the Launch website.  Today, there are Launch Trampoline parks in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island and New Hampshire.  There are plans to continue to expand to other states around the country as well.

    My kids love bouncing on trampolines so naturally we jumped at the chance to go to Launch Trampoline Park in Hartford, CT. This was not the first time the kids and I went to Launch, but it was first-time experience for my husband.

    After signing our safety waivers and putting our shoes and personal belongings in a cubby, we entered the trampoline park.  First stop: The Foam Pit! Who can resist? (Yes, even I jumped in a time or two. However, I quickly realized it is much easier for two and three year olds to climb out than a thirty-something mama.)

    Launch Trampoline Park

    Next, we headed over to the Kid’s Court. This is the perfect roomy spot for little ones to run and jump and get out that energy with others of their own size. The Kid’s Court is one-fourth of the size of the Main Court and is reserved for children under 42 inches tall.  This space is great because it keeps the littles, who may not have the best balance or jumping skills, from getting injured or scared.  Launch also offers “Toddler Time” so if you have little kids, look for that and other programs on the website for more information.

    The next area we checked out was the slam dunk basketball. There are two hoops at the base of the trampolines and plenty of balls to slam dunk.  Basketball lovers and older kids will think this attraction is a dream!  You can run on a trampoline track to jump for a slam dunk on a basketball hoop.

    As you can imagine, all that jumping really worked up an appetite. The Launch Café offers foods like hot dogs, pizza, snacks and drinks.  One thing to note:  Eating here along with the cost of jumping can get a little expensive.  Therefore, parents may want to plan their visit so it doesn’t include a full meal.  We decided to purchase a couple of bottles of water and a quick snack for the kids before exploring the Launch arcade.  In the arcade kids can play games and win tickets to put towards a prize.

    I think the highlight of the trampoline park for the kids was seeing Joey, Launch Trampoline Park’s hip hoppin’ kangaroo.  You will see Joey at Launch birthday parties, sporting events, road races, and charity events.

    Launch Trampoline Park offers so much fun!  In addition to the stations mentioned above, guests can try a larger wall-to-wall trampoline arena, trampoline dodgeball court and fitness classes.  If you’re looking for a perfect spot for a birthday party for those energetic kiddos, I think Launch is a great choice.  They offer a variety of different birthday party packages and allow groups to rent the facility for private parties and events.  They also have some awesome programs including: summer reading, Toddler Time, home school time, field trips, teen nights, and special needs night.

    Before heading back home we decided to visit the Hartford Public Library since we were so close by and hadn’t been there in a while.  Going to the library was a nice (and free) way for the kids to calm down after all that bouncing off the walls – literally.  The kids enjoyed playing in the children’s area for a bit while I browsed the shelves looking for some new books to read for the week ahead.

    A fun-filled afternoon of jumping, laughing, running and reading made for an easy bedtime. Goodbye, pre-school energy. Hello, rest and relaxation!

    Back-to-School Promotion!
    Right now Launch is offering a back-to-school promotion that runs through Friday September 2nd.  Any student who purchases an hour jump receives a free 1/2 hour. (Must be used same day)  “Relieve back to school stress and take your kids to bounce off the walls at Launch!”For more information, check out Launch Trampoline Park and follow them on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.


    The Giveaway!
    Want to win a family 4-pack of tickets to Launch Trampoline Park in Hartford, CT? (A $56 value)  Our friends at Launch Trampoline Park were gracious enough to sponsor this contest.  Enter our giveaway below for your chance to win.  Hurry – ends Tuesday, September 6, 2016.  Good luck!

    Launch Trampoline Park Family 4-Pack Giveaway

    back to school books, giveaways

    Back-to-School Giveaway with Brightly!

    It’s no secret that I am a huge advocate of reading aloud and literacy.  Over the fast few years I have watched my children develop a love of reading and literacy.  I’ve also noticed their increased vocabulary and watched them make connections in the world through books.  It’s truly amazing to see how far they have come in such a short period of time!  That’s why I’m always thrilled when I get the opportunity to spread the word about reading, books and valuable resources like Brightly!

    I first learned about Brightly two years ago when they emerged on the scene while doing an online search for children’s books.  Naturally, I was immediately intrigued by heir content.  Brightly is a site that helps parents raise kids who love to read.  It’s is a wonderful resource from Penguin Random House that features book recommendations from all publishers for every age and stage, reading tips, author essays, and more.


    Most recently, Brightly created a page on the site called, Back to School Essentials, which includes books for kids at every age level (Pre-K through High School), plus tips for parents to get back into the school groove. I’m sure you’ll agree, Brightly has a lot to offer when it comes to getting your family ready for back to school. Broken down by age and stage, our Back to School Essentials contains:

    Are you excited yet?  Also, if you’re not already signed up to receive Brightly’s newsletter, I’d highly recommend that you do.  They deliver book recommendations and reading tips right to your inbox!

    The Giveaway!
    I’ve teamed up with Brightly to let you know about this fantastic giveaway where you can enter to win a back-to-school prize pack for your kiddos!  Contest ends Monday, August 29th at 11:59pm EST.  Winner will be announced on Tuesday, August 30th!

    The prize pack includes:

    • a Brightly tote bag
    • back to school printables pack
    • a book from the back to school roundups based on the age of the winner

    Good luck!

    Back-to-School Giveaway with Brightly!

    myleik teele journal, podcasts

    Coming Soon: A One-On-One Conversation with Myleik Teele!

    The countdown to my interview with Myleik Teele is on!  Don’t know who Myleik is?  Well you SHOULD!  She’s my second favorite role model next to Oprah so having the opportunity to have a one-on-one conversation with her is major!  At least to me anyway.  Eeek!  I was so geeked when I entered a meeting with Myleik on my calendar – I could definitely get used to penciling in stuff like this on my calendar!
    Myleik is the creator of CurlBox, one of the top-selling beauty subscription boxes for natural haired curly girls. She also recently started a second mentoring business called MyTaughtYou.

    Over the years, she’s acquired a huge social media following, not only due to the success of her businesses, but also her tough-love advice she’s been giving to women (and men), like myself, through her podcast.  I love Myleik’s “tell it like it is” attitude.  She uses just the right words and tone of voice without sounding too “preachy” or “bossy”.  She discusses everything from how get out of a slump to offering practical (and realistic relationship advice) to sharing how she started earning over seven figures working for herself over the last few years.
    During our interview we’ll be talking about her new podcast companion worksheets and of course books!  I also plan to ask her some additional questions too.

    Your turn:  I’d love to know what questions you think I should ask Myleik.  Dish!

    book reviews, children's books, read aloud

    Esquivel! Space-Age Sound Artist (A Book Review)

    Esquivel! Space-Age Sound Artist by Susan Wood, illustrated by Duncan Tonatiuh
    Publisher: Charlesbridge
    Age Range: 6 – 9 years
    Grade Level: 1 – 4
    Hardcover: 32 pages
    Available for Sale: September 6, 2016 Pre-order here!

    Juan Garcia Esquivel was born in Mexico and grew up to the sounds of mariachi bands. He loved music and became a musical explorer. Defying convention, he created music that made people laugh and planted images in their minds. Juan’s space-age lounge music–popular in the fifties and sixties–has found a new generation of listeners. And Duncan Tonatiuh’s fresh and quirky illustrations bring Esquivel’s spirit to life.

    I just love a good children’s non-fiction biography book! Especially when I learn something completely new that I never knew before. Have you ever heard of Juan Garcia Esquivel? I hadn’t either until I read this book with the kids.  Juan who later became known simply as Esquivel! (with an exclamation point), the king of space-age pop, was born in Tampico, Mexico in 1918. He loved music and grew up to the sounds of mariachi bands. Defying convention, he created music that made people laugh and planted images in their minds.

    A self-taught player (he learned how to play the piano on his own), composer, and arranger, he to be proved a musical prodigy, and was soon leading the station orchestra. Esquivel! also became a pioneer in the innovative style of space-age music popular in the 1950s and ’60s. This unique style of music  is full of brilliant, bizarre, and exciting sounds, which are particularly striking to ears.  It’s a mixture of Latin, jazz, instruments and human voices combined.

    During his career, Esquivel! became popular in both Mexico and the United States, and he wrote many songs for TV shows and movies. He passed away in 2002, but even today he remains an inspiration to artists in many fields from musicians to animators to filmmakers who appreciate his originality and imagination.

    Recommended for children ages 6 – 9, but it makes an informative and fun read aloud for younger kids too – you may just have to break it up into a couple of reading sessions like we did. The illustrations are bright and cheerful – they really complement the story well as the characters are dressed in outfits from the 50’s and 60’s era.

    I think the kids favorite thing about this book is repeating all the unique musical sounds like: “rah-rah-rah-ree”, “blop-bleep-bleep-blop” and “squiddle diddy squee”!  It would have been fun to have all of the different musical sounds on CD to accompany this book as I’m sure our little musical rendition was way off key!  My favorite thing about this book was learning about someone completely new (and lesser known) from a diverse background.  We don’t see too many books about successful Mexicans so this was a real treat for me to read.

    The back matter contains both an author’s and illustrator’s note as well as a list of additional resources.  Highly recommended for music lovers as well as Mexican or Mexican-American children to allow them to see themselves represented in a book.  I think many little readers will be inspired by Esquivel! to follow their dreams just like he did.

    Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.  All opinions expressed are my own.

    Your turn: Do you think your little readers will enjoy this book?  Feel free to share in the comments.

    children's books, read aloud

    7 Artful Alphabet Books for Design Lovers

    Alphabet books are the staples of many baby and toddler home libraries.  Often they become the most beloved and chewed-up ones too.  My kids are huge fans of a good alphabet book and so am I. Although the kids are getting older, I believe alphabet books have much more to offer children than just teaching them their ABC’s.  In fact, I think alphabet books can be very beneficial even after the preschool years.  Today, ABC books offer a variety of forms and context for readers of all ages, abilities, and serve multiple purposes.

    For example, alphabet books may have rhymes, or feature other sound properties such as alliteration; be based upon popular children’s characters; be artistic, where the illustrator or photographer has taken liberties with the shape and form of the letters; or be contextual, providing information about a particular subject.

    7 Artful Alphabet Booksfor Design Lovers
    Recently, alphabet books have certainly gone to a whole new level.  Have you noticed?  And while there’s usually really not much you can say about ABC books, I think these seven books are definitely the exception.  I think the text and illustrations in all of these books work together nicely.  Some of them challenge readers to carefully observe how the letters are created, what they look like, or to look for hidden items that may even inspire creativity of their own.  I hope you’ll agree and enjoy these books as much as we do especially if your little reader is a lover of illustration, design or art.

    The following were chosen with the following criteria in mind: beautiful illustrations, compelling content, and high interest level.

    ABC: The Alphabet from the Sky by Benedikt Gross
    Discover the alphabet from a bird’s-eye view!
    Geographer and designer duo Benedikt Gross and Joey Lee have taken the alphabet to new heights—literally! Using satellite imagery and computer technology, the pair has discovered “accidental letters” all over the world: in roads, rivers, buildings, lakes, and more. Take a journey around the Earth in 26 letters with this special book.  I’ll be reviewing this book on the blog in more detail soon!

    An Artist’s Alphabet by Norman Messenger
    At first glance, this elegant alphabet book—showcasing both upper- and lowercase letters—seems to follow a familiar formula. There’s an acrobat standing atop a horse to form a big letter A and another curled under herself to make a small one. There’s a colony of beetles attached to the leaves they’ve munched, creating a big and a small letter B. But then comes the letter C, made of sea waves evoking the artist Hokusai. Or a lowercase I in the form of a pen that has left an ink smudge, or two kingly beasts that create the letter K. And what of the many letters, equally fantastical and fascinating, whose associations are left to the viewers’ imaginations? Ingenious and intriguing, beautiful and full of stunning detail, this is an alphabet book sure to invite many repeat explorations.

    ABC Dream by Kim Krans
    This stunning and innovative alphabet picture book will dazzle little ones and engage the adults who share it with them! Each page is dedicated to a letter, and clever alliterations are packed into each ink-and-watercolor spread. Be on the lookout for the beautiful companion book 123 Dream coming out in September 2016!

    AB See by Elizabeth Doyle
    Hidden in each graphic letter are tiny troves of ABC treasures waiting to be found by sharp-eyed readers. Can you find the apple, arrow, and armor in the letter A? Or the bear, banjo, and bike buried in the letter B? Read along in this unique alphabet board book that asks audiences to A B See beyond the ABCs.

    Alpha, Bravo, Charlie: The Complete Book of Nautical Codes by Sara Gillingham
    This stunning visual reference is an introduction to maritime communication through nautical flags, along with Morse code, the phonetic alphabet, and semaphore signaling.
    Today’s system of international maritime signal flags was developed in the 19th century, and is still used for communication between ships, or between ship and shore. Each flag, boldly colored for visual distinction at sea, stands for a letter as well as a phrase relevant to seafaring. The resulting code is both beautiful and functional, inviting readers to code and decode messages of their own!

    Daytime Visions: An Alphabet by Isol


    A many-layered alphabet book from an international star of the children’s book world, Daytime Visions is graphically strong and intelligent in its exploration of words and situations. Whether it’s a kiwi who returns to a boy’s shoulder or a little duck who can’t sleep, the visions here are relatable to children and rich with possibility.

    The Handmade Alphabet by Laura Rankin
    Presents the hand shape for each letter of the American manual alphabet accompanied by an object whose name begins with that letter. The hands portrayed represent different ages, genders, and skin color.  Inspired by a deaf person, this alphabet book celebrates the expressiveness of sign with lyrical clarity and creativity.  The art is eloquent and elegant, and the hands are all different – male and female, large and small.

    Your turn:  What about you? What are your favorite alphabet books? Feel free to share in the comments!