Aug 292014

Dances of India: Multicultural Children's Book Review |

Disclosure: I was provided a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes; however, all opinions are my own.

I absolutely love discovering new multicultural children’s books for the Monkeys, especially ones that are so fresh and different.  Dances of India by Kyra Khanna, Malini Sekhar, and Alyssa M. Torres is just such a book – unique, colorful, and engaging.  The boys adore the book, and I love that it appeals to both of them despite their age difference (preschooler and toddler).

Since we spend so much time focusing on Latin America and the boys’ Costa Rican heritage, it is a treat for me to have such a great resource on a different part of the world.  I truly felt like I was learning right alongside them, as we read about the various dances of India.

Dances of India: Multicultural Children's Book Review |

Dances of India takes kids on a journey throughout the musical subcontinent, as they discover four very distinct forms of dance.  I can only imagine how difficult it must be to make this vibrant art form come to life from the flat page, but that’s exactly what happens.  Little Monkey always bounces in his seat as we read this one!

What really stands out about Dances of India are its lively illustrations and a rhythmic text that fairly dances off the page.  It is so fun to read!

Dances of India is the first book in the Little Loka Series, created by two moms who wanted more multicultural books and experiences to share with their young children.  Even better?  These amazing mamas feel so strongly about paying it forward that part of what they earn will go to support young leaders/social entrepreneurs in India!  Definite win-win for everyone :)

Dances of India: Multicultural Children's Book Review |

Their vision is to provide more than just your average board book – rather, they want to provide an experience for children and adults, so you will find ways to continue the fun and learning on the Little Loka website, such as an overview of how to “free your dance” with your kids!

So if you are looking for a new, unique book to enjoy with your kids, I highly recommend Dances of India, the first in the Little Loka Series!

Aug 262014

Easy Strawberry Cheesecake Pops -

It was my turn recently to take snacks for the virtues class I help put on for Monkey and his friends.  I was inspired by my friend Frances’ recipe for Puerto Rican limber (an alternative to ice cream).  She was kind enough to chat with me about it, and soon the idea came together for a treat taking advantage of the last of the wonderful ripe summer strawberries: strawberry cheesecake pops!

They were easy to make, and the kids and moms all enjoyed them.  I should add that it also tastes good without freezing, as a sort of milkshake.  Here’s how you can make your own!

Easy Strawberry Cheesecake Pops -

Easy Strawberry Cheesecake Pops


1 lb cleaned and sliced strawberries

3/4 small can of sweetened condensed milk

6 – 7 crushed animal crackers (could also use 3-4 graham crackers)


Put all ingredients in a blender and mix until well blended.  Adjust to taste.  Keep in mind that you should make it slightly sweeter than you normally like, as freezing tends to dull the sweetness.

Pour into small Dixie cups and freeze overnight.  Enjoy!

Aug 212014

Family Travel: Benefits and Challenges of Traveling with Young Children | Alldonemonkey on Kid World Citizen

Traveling with young children presents particular challenges: You have to figure out what to pack and how to keep them occupied on long plane rides and car trips. But it also offers certain benefits, such as experiencing the wonder of new places through your child’s eyes. Many parents of little ones debate whether it is worth the trouble or if it is better to simply wait until their kids are older. What should you do?

Today on Kid World Citizen I am sharing some factors to consider as you make a decision: Is travel with young children worth it?  What do you think?

Family Travel: Benefits and Challenges of Traveling with Young Children

Aug 182014

Children's Books About Making New Friends |

This post is part of the Back to School Ideas and Activities series from All Things Kids.  See the end of this post for more details and to link up your own back to school posts!

I was provided a complimentary copy of Never Say A Mean Word Again for review purposes; however, all opinions are my own.

When I was a kid, I was always excited but also anxious at the start of every school year.  One of my biggest worries was about making friends in my new class.  Learning to make friends is an important social skills, so talking through this process through books can help kids with this social hurdle and set them up for a great school year.  Here is a list of some of our favorites:

Children’s Books About Making New Friends

The Rainbow Fish

The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister

This is a gorgeously illustrated book about the rewards of friendship.  Once the Rainbow Fish learns to be generous and share his beautiful scales with others, he learns that the friendships he gains are worth much more.  You can also read a review of the whole Rainbow Fish series.

Never Say A Mean Word Again

Never Say A Mean Word Again by Jacqueline Jules

When we received this book from Wisdom Tales, I was hooked.  A children’s story set in Medieval Spain?  Count me in!  But I wasn’t sure my preschooler would be as interested.  Turns out he loves this book.  Despite the exotic setting, the story is told in such a way that any child can easily relate to it.  How do you handle someone who seems determined to be your enemy?  What to do when you are given the chance to take revenge?  The lengths the boy in this tale goes through to put his enemy in his place – and the surprising results – make this a page turner that teaches an important lesson finding a peaceful path through conflicts.

Wemberly Worried

Wemberly Worried by Kevin Henkes

Monkey and I both adore this book.  It came along at the perfect time for us, when he was having trouble with anxieties about school.  He could identify with Wemberly, who worried all the time, about everything from loose screws on the swings at the playground to whether anyone would come to her birthday party.  But school was the biggest worry of all for Wemberly, until one day she had to face her fear – and ended up making a new friend, who helped her to worry less and enjoy herself.

Chester's Way

Chester’s Way by Kevin Henkes

This is another gem from Kevin Henkes.  Chester reminds me quite a bit of Monkey:  He has certain ways he likes to do things – and luckily his best friend Wilson likes to do things exactly the same way.  They are two peas in a pod, content with only each other’s company – until Lily moves into the neighborhood.  Chester and Wilson must learn to get along with someone who does things differently - and in the end come to appreciate her “strange” ways.

The Brand New Kid

The Brand New Kid by Katie Couric

I came upon this book by chance, when I was looking for children’s books about Hungary.  Lazlo, the brand new kid at school, is from Hungary, and everything about him seems just too weird for the other students.  They tease him mercilessly until one day a fellow student realizes the damage they have done and decides to reach out.  I love this book because it is fairly realistic about what a new kid – especially one that really sticks out from the rest – must endure, and the power of just one person taking a stand and becoming a friend.  And yes, the author is that Katie Couric.  I was not sure what to expect, but I was really impressed.  The rhymes are sometimes a bit strained, but the overall message is great, and my son and his friends loved the book.

Leonardo the Terrible Monster

Leonardo the Terrible Monster by Mo Willems

We love Mo Willems, so I was happy to find this book about a monster who is just not scary!  Poor Leonardo does his best to terrify people, but with no luck until he finally discovers a boy whom he can make cry.  But when Leonardo finally does, instead of being happy he feels badly and decides he would rather be his friend and make him smile.


Dear Whiskers

Dear Whiskers by Ann Whitehead Nagda

I cannot say enough good things about this book!  It is too advanced for Monkey, as it is a chapter book aimed more towards middle elementary school students.  It is the story of a girl who discovers how to fit in by helping a younger student make friends.  Fourth grader Jenny is disappointed when her second grade penpal turns out to be a new girl from Saudi Arabia who speaks little English and acts strangely.  But as Jenny searches for ways to connect with Sameera, she helps the little girl’s classmates look at the new girl differently as well and, in the end, makes a new friend.

Back to School Ideas and Activities: All Things Kids

Today the bloggers of All Things Kids are bringing you a series of great Back to School Ideas and Activities.  Be sure to check out all the links!

But we also want to see your great back to school ideas!  Share them below:


Aug 122014

Though many families are preparing for the start of the school year, we are still enjoying warm, sunny weather here.  One of our favorite ways to savor these last, lazy summer days is by enjoying a cool, frozen treat.  Monkey and Baby both love ice cream, but this is only part of the tale.  There are so many other wonderful icy delights you can enjoy – here is a just sampling:

Beyond Ice Cream: Frozen Treats Around the World

Piraguas - Discovering the World Through My Son's Eyes

Many of us here in the United States grew up with sno cones.  Frances from Discovering the World Through My Son’s Eyes introduces us to a different version of sweetened shaved ice from Puerto Rico – piraguas!  She tells us that you can find carts selling this popular treat in every park and neighborhood!

Paletas, Mexican Popsicles - Kid World Citizen

And who can forget yummy paletas, the Mexican popsicles?  Kid World Citizen shares a recipe for this refreshing treat!

the piri-piri lexicon - Fruit Popsicles

A wonderful fruit popsicle recipe comes to us from the piri-piri lexicon, a French expat living in Germany.  She notes popsicles = happy kids.  So true!

Pomegranate Popsicles and Pistachio "Ice Cream" - Persian-Inspired Summer Treats -

Earlier this summer we tried some Persian-inspired summer treats, including pomegranate popsicles and pistachio non-dairy “ice cream.”  Yum!

15+ Favorite Popsicle Ideas -

For even more popsicle ideas, check out our popsicle roundup from last summer!

Sweet Tea Slushies -

As a nod to my Southern roots, last summer we also made sweet tea slushies, a delicious way to beat the heat!

Limber - summer treat from Puerto Rico - Discovering the World Through My Son's EyesAnother yummy summer treat from Puerto Rico is limber, which you can easily make yourself.  Frances at Discovering the World Through My Son’s Eyes tells us how, including a version with Oreos!

Snowman Ice Cream - La Cite des Vents

And if you are going to have ice cream, make it into art, like this adorable ice cream snowman that Eolia of La Cité des Vents enjoyed at an ice cream shop in Germany!

Kenyan Mango Ice Cream - Around the World in 12 Dishes -

You can also try a new version of ice cream – from Kenya!  We made ours with frozen mango, simple but delicious!

InCultureParent - Egypt

One of my favorite posts comes from InCultureParent, who put together this amazing slideshow of ice cream around the world – “from cart to mouth”!  (The photo above is from Egypt).

If you are in Chicago, be sure to check out these global sweet treats recommended by Raising World Citizens!  The Italian ices remind me of growing up in New Jersey!

And finally, don’t miss these 10 brain-freezing treats from around the world, courtesy of!

What are your favorite frozen treats?

Aug 082014

Book for Volcano Lovers: Harry and the Hot Lava Review -

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes; however, all opinions are my own.

Readers know how much Monkey loves volcanoes, so I was thrilled to find out about Chris Robertson’s new book, Harry and the Hot Lava, just released July 15. 

This volcano book is so much FUN!  Monkey and I both loved it right away.  This is definitely a Read-it-again!-Read-it-again! kind of book.

“Something strange is happening in my house.  Very strange indeed.”

The suspense builds as Harry tells us of the HOT LAVA invading his house.  How will he survive??

“Look out!  It’s right behind you!”

The graphics are bright and fun, and the whole book has the feel of a 1950s science fiction thriller.

For me, though, the best part was the playful ending where we see exactly where Harry gets his vivid imagination.  (Spoiler alert!  This book was inspired by Robertson’s own son).

So whether your kids love volcanoes or just a really fun read, I highly recommend Harry and the Hot Lava.  But beware – the lava is coming!!

You can read more about Chris Robertson and his latest work on his website and Facebook page.

Aug 052014

Creating a Morning Routine that Works for Everyone {Back to School Linky Party} -

This post is part of the Back to School with KBN Linky Party (see below)

Monkey is not what I would call a morning person.  Even as a baby he was more of a night owl, and though we now have ways of getting our active boy to settle down at bedtime, getting him up and out the door in the morning has always been a challenge.

Things have gotten much easier, though, now that we have come up with a morning routine we both love!  He is excited because having a set routine helps him be more independent (he knows what to do!) and thus more confident.  It is also a big help to me because he can move through much of the routine on his own while I take care of Baby and get myself ready.

Here is what has worked for us:

Creating a Morning Routine that Works for Everyone

1. Together with your child make a list of tasks to include.

Obviously you as the parent have the final say on what to include in your child’s morning routine, but working on it together will help your child take ownership of the process.  Plus, you may be surprised at what they come up with!  For my son, for example, it was important to add “get out of bed” to his routine.  Nothing like being able to check something off your list right away!

2. Make it visual.

This step was crucial for us.  Monkey is at the stage of loving to read instructions (thank you, Legos!) and is always curious about what signs says – on the road, at the park, in the store, etc.  He sees these as being the ultimate authority, which is nice because it takes me – as the mom telling him what to do – out of the equation completely.  For example, if he still wants to ride in the grocery cart, I don’t have to argue with him.  All I have to do is point to the sign on the cart giving the age/weight limit.

So having a poster (with pictures, since he doesn’t read yet) was a major turning point.  As he gets ready, he loves to run in and look at the poster so he can announce which numbers he has completed.  And if I need to remind him to finish his morning routine, I no longer get an argument back from him; he accepts it as just what has to be done.

I should add that this was not always the case.  I tried this about a year ago, and it didn’t click with him at all.  So if you have tried this before without real results, I encourage you to give it another try!

Creating a Morning Routine that Works for Everyone {Back to School Linky Party} -

3. Include at least one “new” chore.

As we were creating our routine, I decided it was time to add something new to the routine.  Everything else was familiar to him, though we weren’t always consistent about doing them every morning.  But I also added a new task, telling him it was a sign of what a big boy he was.  I figured as long as we were setting up a new system, it was a good time to help him stretch a bit more and (in our case) start making his own bed.

4. Take time to connect.

I also made sure to include an “extra” that was important to us: saying our morning prayers together.  Before we made our “official” routine, this was the step that was frequently forgotten or even deliberately skipped in the rush to get out the door.  Now, it is on the poster, so it gets done!  It is such a great way to start the morning together, and a breather in what can be an otherwise hectic morning.  Perhaps in your case it might be reading a book together over breakfast or doing some yoga stretches.  Whatever it is, consider including a fun, connecting activity in your morning routine.

Creating a Morning Routine that Works for Everyone {Back to School Linky Party} -

5. Set a starting time. 

Work your way backwards and figure out what time the routine needs to start.  Decide if you will allow your child some playtime first in the morning, or if you will save this as a treat at the end.  And don’t forget to add in some wiggle room!  It never fails that something will go wrong, whether it is a spill, a rip, an extra potty break, a last minute diaper change for the baby, or a show and tell toy that has mysteriously disappeared.  Rather than being surprised, plan on this happening by allowing some extra time in your routine.  If you don’t need it, you can always allow a little extra playtime before you leave!

6. Start early and practice.

Don’t wait until the first day of school to try out your new routine.  Start well before the end of summer, so you can all try out the new routine without any time pressure or first day jitters.   Make it into a game, so your child first learns to have fun with it.  By the time school begins, the routine will already be second nature and so one less thing for you – and your child – to worry about!

Back to School with KBN Linky Party

Welcome to the Annual Back to School with Kid Blogger Network Linky Party featuring activities, crafts, supply ideas, recipes, organization, books and MORE to get your family ready for the upcoming school year!

And what better way to kick things off than with a giveaway!  The prizes are sponsored by Safari Ltd, Melissa and Doug, Trunki. Plus $50 Gift Certificates were donated for Printable Packets and/or eBooks from The Educators’ Spin On It, 3 Dinosaurs, Preschool Powol Packets, This Reading Mama, & Life Over C’s.  Don’t miss out – enter to WIN!  For US Residents only.

Back to School Giveaway

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For US Residents ONLY
Back to School Linky Party Link up your kid-friendly posts to have them featured on 35 blogs who are members of the Kid Blogger Network. We invite you to visit a few posts from participants, leave a comment, and share on social media! Thank you so much for sharing your Back to School Resources! *By linking up, you agree to have your images shared with credit. Back to School Activities and Resources

The Back to School Linky Party is hosted by members of the Kid Blogger Network:


Jul 312014

Cimarrona: YA Novel of A Young Woman Freedom Fighter in Nineteenth Century Cuba |

Disclosure: A complimentary copy of this book was provided to me for review purposes; however, all opinions are my own.

Many of us seemingly mild-mannered types harbor a secret wish to be as feisty as the heroine of Cimarrona, the wonderful YA novel by Sara Monteagudo.  Chabelis, born into slavery in nineteenth century Cuba, is saved as a four year old from a raid on a plantation gone horribly wrong.  She is carried off to the hills in the saddlebag of one of the greatest cimarrones, or freedom fighters, of the time and is raised by him in the wilderness to hunt and fight just like the men she lives among.

At age twelve, she is abruptly taken to an orphanage and forced to live under the restrictive rules of the nun who run it, often resulting in a fierce contest of wills.  As the years pass and war spills into the orphanage walls, Chabelis takes her chance to escape and seek revenge for the death of her loved ones.  Yet she also faces the dilemma of how to respond to the injustice she sees all around her – impetuously, as her heart dictates, or more rationally, as the mature young woman she is struggling to become?

Chabelis’s typical teenage rebellion is complicated by the context of war, racism, sexism, and extremes of wealth and poverty in which she lives.  Monteagudo does a brilliant job of bringing nineteenth century Cuba to life – from the plantation where Chabelis was born, to the jungle in which she is raised, the orphanage where she spends her adolescence, and the bustling city of Havana where she finally must confront the demons of her past and wrestle with which future she will choose.  The novel is a mix of magical realism, historical fiction, coming of age novel, and straight up adventure.

I highly recommend this book for adults and mature young adults.  It is a great way to introduce many concepts such as slavery, colonialism, race relations, gender inequalities, and independence movements.  I would, however, caution that the content and language are quite mature, with scenes of sex and violence, including rape.  Chabelis is a tough, no-holds barred young woman growing to maturity in a violent era that showed little compassion for “mixed blood” women such as herself.  This novel does not sugar coat any of these difficulties, which in the end helps the reader to appreciate the heroine’s circumstances and admire her all the more.


Read Around the World Summer Reading Series

This review is part of the Read Around the World Summer Reading Series from Multicultural Kid Blogs! This summer bloggers from all over the world are sharing their recommendations of great multicultural books for the entire family! For more details and the full schedule, visit the series main page. You can also follow along on our Summer Reading Pinterest Board!

Jul 302014

Baby Shower Ideas: Easy Ways to Make It a Special Day |

Thank you to Basic Invite for sponsoring this post!  All opinions are my own.

Throwing a baby shower for a friend?  We love baby showers!  They are such a fun way to celebrate the expecting mama and her new little one.  Here are some tips for making it a special day:

1. Choose the Right Style

One size definitely does not fit all, so keep in mind what kind of event would suit her.  Would your friend like a big party, or a more intimate gathering with just family and a few close friends?  Does she prefer something light, with lots of fun baby shower games, or something more reflective and spiritual?  Let her personality be your guide!

2. Pick a Fun Theme

The right theme can set the tone for your party.  Keep in mind her personal style (see above) then pick a theme to match.  For a big bash, you could choose a theme that focuses more on friends having fun (luau!), while a quieter event could focus on relaxation and pampering (spa day!).  Does she like cutesy touches (duckies!), or something more serious (candles!)  Take your cue from her: How is she decorating the nursery?  (Or do they even have one?)  Take a peek at any purchases she’s made so far for the baby, and listen to any hints she might have dropped (“I just want to put my feet up and relax!”)

3. Add Personalized Touches

What really makes the day special is showing her that you have paid attention to her.  Add personalized touches by making favors with her favorite quote, playing music that is meaningful to her, and decorating the space with special photos.  But you can really get off on the right foot by sending beautiful, personalized baby shower invitations.  It’s easier to do than you think!  Monkey_Tribe-1

Courtesy of Basic Invite.  Is anyone surprised that I really loved their monkey invitations??

You can personalize invitations instantly online at Basic Invite.  It is so easy!  Users can to customize the colors and text on every page of the invitation, so you can tailor the look down to the last detail – all in a matter of seconds!

MonkeynaroundCourtesy of Basic Invite

And don’t forget that when the time comes, she can use Basic Invite to create beautiful birth announcements.  How cool is that?

So pat yourself on the back for being such a great, sensitive friend – now go have some fun playing around with baby stuff!

Check out the collection at Basic Invite and let us know which is your favorite!

Jul 282014

Listening to God’s Will as a Parent by Rebecca Reid {Parenting and Faith} |

Spiritual education is a keystone of how I am raising my sons, and I am always inspired to hear how other parents are working to raise their children along a spiritual path. In the series Parenting and Faith I feature posts from bloggers discussing how their religion or philosophy influences their parenting. I am so pleased to share today’s post on listening to God’s Will as a parent, from Rebecca Reid of Line upon Line Learning.

When Leanna asked how our faith influences our parenting, I could not help but recognize that my own understanding of my role as a mother came as a direct result of my faith.

I am not naturally a patient person. When my son entered the difficult toddler age, I found myself at my wits end most days. My husband frequently traveled, and my son stopped napping, so I felt there was never a respite from motherhood!

I could not wait for him to go off to school so I would not be frustrated all day long.

But my perspective changed when he was four. This was when I was guided in a completely different direction as a mother. I let myself listen to God’s will.

When we realized that Raisin would miss the cutoff for Kindergarten and yet he already showed reading readiness, I found myself thinking frequently, I should homeschool him.

Despite my husband’s agreement with this idea, time and again, I discounted it. How on earth could I do that?! I am not a patient person. I am not good at keeping him around me all the time: how could I keep calm with him always underfoot!

In the Doctrine and Covenants (one of the standard works of scripture for those of my faith), the Lord clarified how He would help us know what to do:

I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost, which shall come upon you and which shall dwell in your heart. (section 8:2)

I took a little encouraging over the course of many months. I studied out the reasons in my mind. But mostly I let the Spirit settle on my heart. I turned my selfishness into a desire to do what God wanted me to do.

Finally, I knew, in both my mind and heart, that this was my calling: for whatever reason, my son needed me to be his teacher. I needed to keep him home and teach him.

We’ve finished two full years and are planning the third. Some of my worries have come true. I do not get many days child-free. I am still not a patient person. And homeschooling is a lot of work! It would be easier to send my son to second grade this year than to plan and carry out homeschooling for him for 180 days with a toddler underfoot.

Homeschooling support groups, co-ops, and gym classes have eased the pressure and given me confidence. Most importantly, I have the promise from God that because I’ve done what He asked me to do, it will be okay, even when I don’t understand it.

In Isaiah 55:8, the Lord asks Isaiah to listen to his words. He explains:

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.

In subsequent verses the Lord adds the following promises:

So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.

For ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace: the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. (emphasis added)

I do not always understand why I was called to homeschool and others of my faith and situation have not been. I will be the first to tell you that not everyone needs to homeschool. Certainly, not everyone wants to! (Trust me, I was one of them!)

And yet, by keeping my son home with me, I have felt the joy and peace as promised in Isaiah.

My kids and I are close. Raisin is learning more than he would be in a school situation. We get extra time to discuss religious and moral issues and read scriptures together. My kids get additional playtime together compared to what they would get if Raisin were in public schools.

Most importantly, I have learned to be more patient. I have learned how my son learns. I have learned to balance my responsibilities. I have become more involved as a mother.

My faith has grown.

I understand now, more than ever before, that my role as a mother is the most important one I will ever have. Although homeschooling was not originally in my plans, God’s ways have proven to be better than I could have imagined.


Rebecca ReidRebecca Reid is a stay-at-home homeschooling mom to two (ages 6 and 2). She blogs about their education journey and shares educational printables, games, and ideas at Line upon Line Learning.





Parenting and Faith on

In the series Parenting and Faith bloggers share how faith influences their parenting. You can find all the posts in this series on the main page as well as the Parenting and Faith Pinterest board.