Reading List for Early Fluent Readers

Tuesday, October 24, 2017



You know when you say something, and immediately think, "Wait, did I actually just say that?"

We were in the middle of the get-ready-for-school rush, and I was reminding the kids to make sure their backpacks were ready and was on time nine out of fifteen of asking them to please put their shoes on. I found Pato walking around the house with his nose in a book, and I said, "Pato! Please stop reading!"

It immediately took me back to those times I would sneak under the covers with a flashlight and a book because I desperately wanted to know what happened next in the story, but I was supposed to be asleep. 

Kinda felt like one of those "full circle" moments.

Anyway-- I've been trying to find books series that would be challenging enough for my kids to read on their own, but also have stories that didn't go way over their heads or turn them into serial killers. The people of Instagram came to my rescue, and I was able to compile a good list of series and some non-series books as well. I was asked by numerous people to share the list, so here ya go! (Quite a few of these were recommend numerous times, so I'm hoping they're good!)


Nate the Great series by Marjorie W. Sharmat
Ramona series by Beverly Cleary
Ivy & Bean series by Annie Barrows
The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo
The Magician's Elephant by Kate DiCamillo
 Judy Moody series by Megan McDonald
Junie B. Jones series by Barbara Park
Nancy Drew and the Clue Crew series by Carolyn Keene
Mr. Popper's Penguins by Richard Atwater
The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall
Sideways Stories from Wayside School by Louis Sachar
Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Frog and Toad series by Arnold Lobel
Little Bear series by Else Holmelund Minaret
Pete the Cat series by Kimberly and James Dean
Pedro, First Grade Hero by Fran Manushkin
Magic Tree House series by Mary Pope Osborne
Eerie Elementary series by Max Brallier
Cam Jansen series by David A. Adler 
Happy Reading!

one fair, three very different summers

Thursday, August 17, 2017


Every year, the fair comes to town. We've only been here for a few summers, and it's amazing how different each summer has been. And specifically, how I remember this particular fair.


Three summers ago, I didn't even go to the fair. I had just found out I was pregnant, and each day felt like I was barely trying to keep my head above water. While my daily joys typically revolve around playing with my kids or seeing them get excited about something new or even a really delicious ice cream sandwich, during that time, I had a really, really, really, really, hard time finding much joy in anything. I felt so tired-- as if my own blood cells couldn't muster up the energy to do much more than just survive. The day of the fair three years ago was dark for me, and I really can't tell you much more than I went to bed around five in the afternoon, and didn't wake up until the kids had already been asleep for a couple of hours. I remember asking Chris how the kids liked the fair. But, even my questions felt half-hearted. I couldn't understand why I didn't even feel like being around my own kids. Having suffered with depression during my second pregnancy, I knew what was happening, but it sure didn't make it any easier.


Last summer, we went as a family of five. Chris and I were officially outnumbered. We brought baby Oscar with us, and we were still trying to find our footing with three kids. And I remember the big kids saying, "Mom! I'm so glad you came this time!" They couldn't wait to show me every ride from the year before.


Fast forward three summers later. A genuinely happy mama, with two genuinely happy kids, and one baby back home sleeping. 


And one genuinely happy dad who didn't have to ride the teacups :)


As we stopped at the top of the ferris wheel, Sof hung on to me so tightly. Every time it would go around, she would squeeze me around the same time because she knew what was coming next. She was anticipating the fear that she knew would come. As I sit here writing, I've realized that I know so well what that feels like. Sometimes, I wonder if we do have another baby, if that same darkness will come back. I don't know if I've ever really written or vocalized it before, but this is the truth: I am scared. I am scared of going to that really hard place. I know that I am one of the fortunate ones. One of the ones who experiences antepartum depression for a few months, and then it sort of seems to fade away by around the half-way mark of my pregnancy. But, as I've talked to other moms, I've learned that while each experience is unique, it is still very real. 

So, yeah. Just cracking a window open here to let you know that stuff scares me, too. And feeling so lucky to have such amazing people in my life who let me squeeze them tight when I'm going around that ride and are there with me when I need them most.

A year of Jones kids: August

Wednesday, August 16, 2017


You guys. I don't even know I've been posting these updates on the blog, but I've been taking pictures of the kids in front of this calendar since January.


And, like, you know when you start something, thinking it's a really fun idea...but then you get halfway through, and you're all "Wait, what was I thinking?" Yeah. THAT.


But, whatever. Every month, they stick with me. They know they'll be both bribed and threatened and bribed some more. You know what, though? I keep doing them because every month a small part of me is proud that they're all still there, and I haven't accidentally left one behind at the grocery store. (Speaking as someone who once got lost at the grocery store as a child, and was so certain I would never see my mother ever again, and would have to spend the rest of my days somewhere in between the cereal isle and the dog food, this is a major MAJOR win.) 

Some days I still think, "Wow. Three. And they're mine."

Just makes my heart want to burst and cry and hold them so tightly. Never gets old. 

Also, speaking of photographing kids, I was honored to be approached by one of my favorite companies, Artifact Uprising to help contribute to a piece they worked on called, "Photographing Littles." I, along with some other parent-photographers, shared some of our tips when capturing our own little ones. You can find the post HERE!


|| Little Cottonwood matching "Ridge" button-up shirts: HERE || Little Cottonwood "Rosie" dress in blue gingham: HERE ||

Sayulita: Where to Stay!

Tuesday, August 15, 2017


Have you heard my whole thing about "seasons?" Like, I'm not talking about weather seasons, but, like, the metaphorical kind? There are seasons where I'm better at staying on top of the laundry, seasons where reading a good book seems to sit on the back burner, or seasons where I am really really good at carving out time for myself. Well, this season I've been in lately has revolved around keeping my kids semi-happy while they're out of school, so any writing and work has taken a bit of a hit. But, I'm ready to start a new season, and excited to find my writing groove again now that the kids are heading back to school.



Near the top of my list of things to write about and catch up on was our trip to Mexico earlier this summer! In an attempt to simplify things for myself I'm planning on breaking the trip down into smaller posts. So, we're kicking things off over here with Sayulita: Where to Stay!



Before choosing a place to stay, I really like to do a bit of research. I read reviews, searched to see if the places had their own Instagram accounts, and really tried to find out as much about the place as possible. I chose to book a stay with the Petit Hotel Hafa, and we are so glad we did. Whenever we have traveled together, Chris and I really like to look for a place where we can really immerse ourselves into the area. One time several years ago when traveling around England, I was able to (accidentally) find a place in Manchester that not only put us in a wonderful location, but also was a stone's throw from a landmark commemorating one of my husband's favorite historical figures. I wasn't able to achieve that this time (darn!), but I guess that means we just need to plan a trip back to Europe :) Although, I will say, Petit Hotel Hafa was pretty darn close to his favorite taco stand of all time, so that DOES count for something right??

Do you spy two little cute selfies??

We chose room #2, and I fell in love with the feel of the room right away. I loved the decor, and of course, I loved how bright and clean it felt. I will however, advise that you splurge a bit and pay extra for the AC-- it can definitely get a tad toasty in there. We had someone come in every day to clean and bring fresh towels. I also loved that in addition to the key we got to the room, we also got a key to the main gate of the hotel. They lock it up every night around 8pm, but you can let yourself in whenever you like. We felt super safe our whole time there.



Before our trip, I had these great plans to sleep in and not get out of bed till noon. Well, that didn't happen. I don't know that I would call myself a morning person, but once I wake up in the morning, I'm up. That's it. There's really no dozing back off to sleep.



I was pretty happy to lay in our room, however, reading there or up on the gorgeous rooftop deck that was just steps away from our room.


Seriously though, this place was just so pretty and quaint every took you turn!


The rooftop deck really was the cherry and whipped cream on top here. It was always quiet, and we usually had the whole deck to ourselves. We loved to come here to read in the mornings, or just spend time tougher after dinner. When it's dark, they light the place up with candles, and you can hear all the night owls in the streets. 




And if you're looking for a good spot for a picture, there is a darling path of hearts just outside our door!


So, there ya go! And these pictures don't even quite do it enough of justice. We loved staying at this super colorful and beautiful place, and I'd highly recommend it if you find you're planning your own stay in Sayulita :)


Till next time!

|| "Faye" Straw Boater Hat: HERE || Madewell tassel earrings (red no longer available) HERE || Madewell sunglasses (sold out) similar HERE || 

A real question...

Monday, July 10, 2017


So...once upon a time, O was this calm(ish) baby who didn't go around the house destroying everything in his path right?? Or am I remembering things wrong?


And seriously, this is the reason why I sometimes don't even bother putting the broom away.

Earlier that day he had escaped twice from the room where we were waiting for the doctor, and ran right into the waiting room unclothed. When the doctor finally came in and asked me if he could walk, I was like, "Uhhh...yes. When he's not running."

**Amazing and gorgeous portraits of the kids by Bruna Mebs. She was so kind to create these for us, and I can't walk past them without stopping and smiling at them.

Raising a No-Girl

Wednesday, July 5, 2017


This girl.

I think if there was a list of "themes" for my blog, for sure one would be, "Figuring and re-figuring out how to be the mom my daughter needs." We are two peas in a pod, laugh at the same stupid jokes, share a mutual dislike of any tags on our clothes, and often feel like we're the ones who are right. (Guys, I'm working on that.)

She constantly has a hundred things running through her mind, and she doesn't have enough hours in the day to say them all. That's my Sofi girl. She's jabbering your ear off from the second she wakes up to the second she starts snoring. (She really does snore, and it's my favorite snore in the whole world. Sometimes, I'll sneak into her room and creep in really close hoping I can catch a bit of it.)

She has fears and very real anxieties. She has big ideas, and a big determination to do anything to execute them. Give her a paper and some string and she'll make you a kite. A box turns into an ice cream truck.

I love that she's determined. MOST of the time. Unless she's determined to do something fifteen minutes before I'm wanting to wake up for the day.


And because she's so determined, she's really turning into a pretty strong willed little girl who knows what she wants, and what she doesn't want to do.

- Sof, can you please go put those blocks away?
- (Thinks about it for a couple seconds.) Um, no, I don't want to.
- I didn't ask if you wanted to.
- But I didn't take the blocks out.
- Sof, pleeeeease can you just put them away? 

She then verrrrrrry reluctantly puts the blocks away, and makes a pretty big oscar-worthy scene about it. As if it was the single most biggest favor she was doing for me.

I'll admit. She really is a huge help, and everyone speaks glowingly of her. But for some reason, she really doesn't have an issue with saying no to me.

I try really hard to never pull out the "...because I said so" card on my kids, but I did come close last week. I already forget what it was that I had asked the kids to do, and Sof immediately asked why she had to? And I responded with, "Well, someday when you're a mommy and have kids, you'll get to ask your kids do these sort of things." 

"Mom. I'm not having kids, remember?"

Oh, that's right. I had forgotten that she had already made this huge life decision at the ripe old age of 5.

Just the other night, we were out with some of our good friends who were in town, and of course, we started talking about our kids. They also have a daughter Sofia's age, and I asked, "What do you guys think of five?"

I could tell by their hesitation that they were trying to think of the right words to use. We then spent the next few minutes discussing all the wonderful things about having kids around this age, but also the very real difficulties that accompany it. And then the conversation turned to our kids' ease in saying the word "no." Our friends had an older family member who said that "kids these days" just weren't being raised the same way they were used to. That their disobedience at young age, and them saying no to their elders would clearly lead to a child who would eventually grow up to be an promiscuous alcoholic who robbed banks.

We all sort of shook our heads and laughed (by the way, when are we going to stop using terms like "kids these days" or "people/parents/whatever these days?") but then Chris said something that really hit me. He said, "The ironic thing is that BECAUSE they feel comfortable saying no, they'll be more confident in saying no when they are faced with tough situations."

I love that! It's true! Already, Sof told me how some girls in her class at school were playing some game, but when I asked if she joined them she said, "No. I told them I didn't really feel like playing that. So I just played by myself."

I remember thinking, "Hey! Good for her!" Already she's learning not to cave to peer pressure!

So, is it easy when she says "no" to me? No.

Do we talk about it, and say that yes, she absolutely does need to pick up all the clothes she threw all over the floor because she wanted to change outfits for the third time that day? Yes. And do I find myself having to take deep breaths to get through it? 

You betcha.

But, do I feel like when she eventually comes to different important crossroads, she will be confident in trusting her own gut? I do. That's what being a parent is about, right? Teaching and instilling values in your kids, in hopes that the good stuff sticks, and when it's their turn to go into the world they can face it without fear? 

I hope my Sof doesn't feel like she needs to be a yes-girl all the time. That being a No-girl can get her just as far. 

My Top Five Favorite Perks of Traveling Without Kids

Sunday, July 2, 2017


So let me be clear. When it comes to trips, ninety-nine times out of a hundred, I'll tell you that while traveling with kids can be hard, it is so much better because you get to see the world through their eyes. And if not with my kids, then for sure my husband. Lucky for me, June kinda turned into a month of travel for me, and I was able to enjoy a trip away with Chris, and one by myself.

I took a quick jaunt to my old stomping grounds this week, and I can't tell if I enjoyed the actual trip more, or being able to you know, SLEEP on a flight. To be honest, I was really going back and forth about this trip. The timing was kind of tricky, with it coinciding with the kids' last week of school, and lining up someone to watch the kids while he worked was no walk in the park either. But, Chris was totally on board and we were determined to make it happen.

The kids were more than a little miffed, because they were sure I was abandoning them again, but they seemed to cheer up a bit after the mention of "souvenirs." I was a little sad, too, leaving them again so soon, and I teared up a little bit on my drive to the airport.

BUT...

as soon as I had arrived at the airport, I was all, "Oh. Wow. Yeah, this is nice." I can totes do a few days of this.

So, here you go: My top five favorite perks of traveling without kids!


Taylor ham, egg, and cheese bagel. This is what we will all be eating in heaven.
1. You get to eat all of your food. There's no one asking for a bite of your bagel, and asking you to share. You reluctantly decide to say yes, because, you know, SHARING is an important life skill or whatever, even though in your head you're thinking, "You better ENJOY that bite! And so help me if you decide to spit it out!" 


2. Flights are a flipping breeze! What did I do at the airport? I WATCHED FRIENDS. True story: for a solid minute I got nervous and fidgety while watching because I kept thinking there must be something I was supposed to be doing. Because when did I ever just go to an airport and just, like, enjoy myself?

3. Packing light. You can ask my husband; I get such a thrill from packing efficiently. It's so weird. I check, double-check, and TRIPLE-check every single item I pack and think, "How much do I realllllly need this?" Because of this, I have self-proclaimed myself a packing queen. For real, invite me over before your next trip and I would love to help you pack. For FUN. This time around, I even packed a travel pillow in my carry on because I had so much room left. And normally, I don't ever bring a travel pillow because I don't really consider it an absolute necessity. Besides, when would I ever USE the darn thing?

 



4. I didn't have to worry about nap schedules. We could come and go as we pleased, and I didn't have to worry about Oscar being a total nutcase and running into the street everywhere we went.


5. I didn't have to watch a single episode of Daniel Tiger, or Curious George, or My Little Pony. I mean, it was pretty depressing not waking up to a hundred (loud) renditions of "THIS IS MY HAPPY SOOOOONG...." but we made up for it by catching not one, but two U2 shows. I tell ya, Bono is the man. I have a feeling he and Daniel Tiger would really get along. 


Also, can we all just take a second to bow our heads in thanks that I actually found my car at 1AM in the airport parking lot? I was sitting IN the shuttle when I realized that this was the masterpiece I took to help me find my spot. I'm sure National Geographic will be calling me up offering me a job annnnny day now.

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