Monday, January 10, 2011

Happy Blogoversary (to me)!

One year ago today, I decided to put it all out there and start blogging. Veni, Vidi, Blogi started out as my New Year's Resolution in January of 2010, but it has evolved over the course of a year to become so much more. Thanks to all of you, what started as an outlet for a lonely Stay-At-Home mom has become a source of pride and inspiration to me. Not only have I been given the opportunity to share my personal stories with all of you, but together I do believe that we are doing some really amazing things. Through V2B, you have given me the encouragement I needed to talk about the causes I'm passionate about, and it's something I'm immensely grateful for.  It's been a wonderful year for me, and perhaps the best part about it has been getting to know those of you that stop by frequently to add your voices to mine. I love the stories that we have told together, and I'm looking forward to sharing even more with you for as long as we're all game.

One of the things I really want to do this year is talk a bit more about the books we're reading at home. Yousuf and I are both avid readers, and it's something that I'm proud to say my girls have picked up on. We read together every day, and I'm finding that it's becoming an important moment of connection for our family as we all get busier throughout the day. When I was younger, picking up a storybook transported me to amazing places, gave me the courage to be big and strong and fearless, and helped me to imagine myself as anything I could see in my mind's eye. Later on, reading all those books fostered a love of telling my own stories, I can see the same thing happening with Inara. Lately, she has been wanting to type (not write, Mama!) out her own tales based on the books she is passionate about.

So, I'd like to start this second year of blogging by talking about What The Kids Are Reading, and I'm hoping we can do this more regularly as time goes by.  I'd also love to hear about what all of you are reading at home, and which stories your kids are passionate about. We're always excited to find a new book!

Before we get to that however, I have been DYING to share this with all of you, and it's actually kind of related...

Over the holidays, Yousuf took a break from his day job as Math Professor Extraordinaire, and decided to catch up on our great big list of home improvements. One of the things we've been meaning to do for some time is build some shelving on the main level to house the girls' books. Now it would have been very easy to buy a bookshelf for the overflowing stacks of books that are threatening to take over my house, but as floor space is at a premium in our teeny house, we've been looking for other alternatives.

Something that's always interested us is the idea of putting books with their covers facing out on the shelves. The idea is that if kids can see (and reach) the book covers, they will be more interested in it's contents than just staring at a bunch of spines with titles. You'd think that this would be obvious for babies and toddlers, but it works great for kids that are reading too. Yousuf came across this great article online when he was browsing DIY bookshelves, and it really struck a chord with us. It also gave us a fantastic idea for building our own bookshelves - out of rain gutters! Crazy, I know...but check out what my super amazing hunka hunka burnin' handyman built in one afternoon (the picture is slightly blurry because I was balancing a sick baby on one hip while taking it. That's talent, peeps!):

Aren't they fabulous? We love them. I think the best part, for me, is that the girls can put all their books away neatly all on their own, and nothing is cluttering up our floor space. The girls love that they can rotate their favorite books on and off the shelves whenever they want, all by themselves, and the best part for El Cheapitan was that the shelves cost only $30 dollars to make! I don't think I've ever seen him as giddy as when he calculated the oodles of money he was going to save by building these. And you know, I'm his wife - I should be making him as giddy as thirty dollar rain gutter shelves. Sheesh. 

So the point of this huge tangent is our new book shelving is awesome and now our book-loving girls can love on their books even MORE. And also that you can see the two books that I'm going to talk about right there on the bookshelves. So now you know that when I say these two books are so well-loved and often read in our house that I'm telllin' no lies...

The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf (Illustrated by Robert Lawson) and Can You Say Peace? by Karen Katz are two of our favorite books right now. It's funny, but sometimes my girls get right in sync with each other without even knowing it - like when they gravitate towards a particular theme in a book. Even though these books are geared towards different age ranges, Inara and Nissa will both sit together and pore over each of them.

The Story of Ferdinand is a very old tale (originally published in 1936) but we love it in spite of it's vintage. It tells the story of Ferdinand, a bull who would rather smell flowers than fight in a bullfight. I remember reading this book when I was younger and the story left an indelible mark on me. 

The drawings, rendered in simple black and white, are equally as nostalgic:

And of course the story is engaging and funny and whimsical and so very poignant all at the same time. Inara and I have read this book together many times and each time she talks about how wonderful it would be if everyone was able to sit and smell flowers instead of doing things that hurt other people. She is a such a gentle soul, just like Ferdinand.

Can You Say Peace is much like The Story of Ferdinand. Both books tell marvelous tales of peace and non-violence in a way that is so absorbing to little ones. Karen Katz, who has written and illustrated so many popular children's books, really outdid herself with this book. It's an absolute feast for the eyes, and every page transports you to a different country:

Along the way, you meet children from around the world who say the word "Peace" in their native language. My kids are particularly smitten with Meena from India:

 (You can tell how well-loved our copy of this book is in this shot!). 

We were given this book as a gift from a dear friend, and I think I nearly cried when we got to the last page - it's a beautiful and simple message of peace and hope for our children and generations to come:

And while it's true that I was suffering from the post-baby hormonal weepies, I still maintain that this is a very moving book. Both books are inspiring, and if you get a chance you should check them out at your local library to experience them with your kids. And be sure to let me know what you think!

Before you head out to your local  library however, maybe you'd like to leave me a comment below. I'd like to extend to you, my amazing readers and friends, a great big huge thanks for being here with me this past year. I'm breaking my no-giveaway rule again (You just can't count on me for ANYTHING, can you?) for my first blogoversary!

So here's the giveaway. All you have to do is leave a comment here between today (Monday January 10th) and Friday (January 14th) at 5pm EST. In that comment, please tell me which of the two books above (Can You Say Peace by Karen Katz or The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf) you'd like to receive. That's it! To make it fair, please enter only once. And to make it easier for me to manage, please leave your comment here on the blog instead of on my Facebook page or Twitter. I will pick a winner using after the comment period ends on Friday, and announce the name here on Monday, January 17th, 2011. Fun? I hope so!

I'm going to open this giveaway up to anyone who wants to enter - if you have an address, I will mail your book to you! I might even write a note to you on the inside cover...and I might even add a drawing (or two or three) by my kids. Or maybe something else just for you. I haven't quite decided yet. But it will be special, and it will be heartfelt from me to you, to thank you for your support during this first year of V2B!

So please spread the word about the giveaway, and please know that I am so thankful for all of you. Happy Blogoversary to me!
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