July 2016 Must-Reads

August 9th, 2016

July 2016 Must-Reads from MomAdvice.com

Going on vacation after a jam-packed busy month was just what I needed to tackle a big stack of books for July. I had a few hits and a few misses this month so I thought I would share those with you. I will be curious to hear if some of these books hit you in a different way than they did for me. Let’s talk about it!

I also usually tend to shy away from popular books, but this month I wanted some quick escapes while we were on holiday. I picked several that I know everyone will be talking about this month as well as a couple of gems I discovered that I had not heard about before. I’ve got time traveling, sci-fi, YA goodness, chick lit, and a thriller this month- hopefully, there is something for everyone!


(You can get a cute mug like this for $5 with my $10 coupon!! Support an artist and acknowledge your mountain!)

Want the inside scoop on what I’m reading each week? Join our online book club where we talk about books all day every day. This is not an exaggeration! Join me!

8 Must-Read Books I Read In June

Fellside by M.R. Carey

Fellside by M.R. Carey

I was so excited to dig into M.R. Carey’s latest book since The Girl With All the Gifts is one of my favorite reads. This book was interesting, but very different than his last one. I don’t know how to explain it except by saying that it is Orange is the New Black meets The Sixth Sense.

Jess Moulson finds herself in a maximum security prison, called Fellside, after a tragic fire that not only deforms her, but kills the little boy in her apartment complex. As she deals with the grief of the crime she has committed, she is visited by the ghost of the little boy who helps her to make peace with the tragedy, but also allows her to exit her mind and body, giving her the chance to jump into the minds of the other prisoners and see what they are dreaming of.

Killing a child makes her a target at the prison, but even with the little boy’s help, it can’t protect her from the crooked system.

At almost 500 pages, the story dragged for me in the beginning and then I finally hit my pace about halfway through. It was worth reading just for the court scene and the creative twist at the end, but it requires a lot of commitment to power through the first half of this one.  If you have the time, add it to your stack!

Be sure to read my interview with M.R. Carey where we discussed his first INCREDIBLE book. That one was definitely a must-read for me! 

4 Out of 5 Stars

All the Missing Girls by Megan Miranda

All the Missing Girls by Megan Miranda

It is difficult to find thrillers that are solid all the way through, but All the Missing Girls, truly delivers a strong thriller from start to finish. This is Miranda’s first novel for adults (she had previously been writing just for young adults) and shines as one of the best thrillers I have read this summer.

This story is told backwards from Day 15 to Day 1 as the mystery of a missing girl, named Annaleise, is trying to be solved by local police.  As luck would have it, the main character (Nic) has been through a missing person case before when her best friend Corinne went missing, a decade ago, and no one ever heard from her again. Her family goes under scrutiny once again as they try to figure out where Annaleise has gone.

You are taken down a bumpy road as these two cases collide in shocking ways and everyone is suspect. Reading in reverse chronological order is a challenge for a reader and reading it digitally made it more difficult to page back to figure out where these sections came together. I would recommend reading this one as a good old-fashioned book to really pull the storyline together in a way that you can really grasp.

If you enjoyed, In a Dark, Dark Wood or Luckiest Girl Alive, I have a feeling you will really enjoy this twisty book and trying to solve the case of these missing girls. If you are like me, you really won’t know until the final pages what these family secrets hold.

5 Out of 5 Stars

A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray

A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray

Described as Cloud Atlas meets Orphan BlackA Thousand Pieces of You is the first in the planned trilogy (the third book releases in November!) from Claudia Gray. This book is EVERYTHING that you may have felt like you have been missing since the Hunger Games trilogy.

Marguerite is the daughter of two scientists that have found a way to unlock different dimensions through a high-tech necklace, called the Firebird, which gives you a chance to step into alternate worlds (past & present).

Marguerite’s father is murdered and the murderer turns out to be a trusted lab assistant who has used the Firebird to leave and hop in another dimension. Hot on his heels though are Marguerite and Theo, another research assistant on the team to try to avenge his death.

What unfolds is time travel magic as Marguerite plays a game of cat and mouse from one dimension to another. Stepping back in time and then moving through the future, the reader is taken through each dimension as Marguerite tries to find Paul. What she doesn’t expect is the awaiting love triangle or the truth behind her father’s death in a surprising little twist.

I DEVOURED this story and fell in love with each of these characters- I can’t rave enough.

If you are screening YA books for a teen, there is a sex scene in this one (mildly done), language (mildly done), and references to the struggle-is-real about periods.

I read this one through Scribd (if you happen to use that service too). I can’t recommend this one enough for a sweet YA escape and have already reserved the second book at my library!

5 Out of 5 Stars

The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware

The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware

Ware’s debut, In a Dark, Dark Wood, was so fantastic that I couldn’t wait to dig into her second thriller. The Woman in Cabin 10 feels a bit like a Hitchcock film or a finely crafted Agatha Christie murder mystery. Playing into the unreliable narrator theme, that seems to be so popular these days, Lo Blacklock is dealing with anxiety following a break in at her home. Assigned to cover a boutique cruise ship for a travel magazine, Lo believes she witnesses a murder in the cabin next to hers.

When she reports it and starts investigating what has happened, someone is not too happy about it, creating an already unhinged woman into a state of even more heightened anxiety. As a reader, this whodunit murder mystery was solid all the way through and kept me guessing until the final pages.

Be sure to check out my interview with Ruth Ware as we discuss her debut, In a Dark, Dark Wood!

4 Out of 5 Stars

Truly Madly Guilty

Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty

I was so excited when this book came into our library since I enjoyed Big Little Lies so much. Moriarty follows the same formula as she did with her last book, setting up a tragic event that happens at a neighborhood cookout and the implications that happen from the tragedy. Perhaps it is because she uses the exact same setup as Big Little Lies, this one felt a little too formulaic and I felt like I knew what to anticipate from the very beginning.

I feel bad saying this, while this tragedy was sad, the build-up of the first half of the book makes it feel much larger than it was and just wasn’t worth all the suspense of over two hundred pages of setting you up. Although the first half moved swiftly for me, the second half REALLY dragged as the author tries to pull all the loose strings together in a fairly predictable way. The only good parts were some of the layers added to some of the characters (a daughter of a hoarder, a grumpy neighbor with a sad past, the stripper who changed her life due to a generous client).

This would be an enjoyable beach read, but was not my favorite read from her.  I wouldn’t qualify this one as a must-read, but I did want to include it for the Moriarty fans!

3 Out of 5 Stars

First Comes Love by Emily Giffin

First Comes Love by Emily Giffin

I was so excited to dig into Giffin’s latest book even though her last one was one that I had abandoned. First Comes Love really brings the charm that Something Borrowed had captured in her writing as she explores the complexities of a relationship between sisters.

When their brother is tragically taken from them, Meredith & Josie’s lives pull into two different paths following his death. Meredith seems to have it all with the perfect marriage, a great career, and a child. Josie remains single, after her first love has moved on, and decides to take her life down a different path to raise a child in a less conventional way. Of course, neither story is as it fully seems and Josie carries around a secret that threatens her (already) failing relationship with her sister about the night of her brother’s accident.

This one is a satisfying read from start to finish and a pleasure to read! I absolutely loved it!

4 Out of 5 Stars

Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel

Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel

I enjoyed Dark Matter so much last month that I couldn’t wait to dive into another sci-fi thriller. Sleeping Giants sounded like an interesting premise for a book and had comparisons to, The Martian, which I had really enjoyed. Unfortunately, I think this one lacked the charm that The Martian had, making the comparison a little bit of a stretch for me.

This book opens with a girl riding her new bike and happens to fall into a hole on her ride. When the firemen come to rescue her, she is being held in the palm of a steel hand in a square-shaped hole. Seventeen years later, the mystery of where this artifact is from is still unknown. This girl, now a doctor,  decides to pull together a team to figure out the mystery and what it could potentially mean for humanity. Told mostly in interview format, with an unnamed interrogator, it is a quick novel to breeze through for a sci-fi escape.

I have to say though that this was not a captivating read for me. I didn’t enjoy reading the story through interviews and the writing felt a little cheesy at times. I was hoping for an action-packed book with this robot, but it seemed to focus more on the political angle than the fact that these people possessed a killer robot that could wipe out humanity. Some of the motives of these characters felt forced (I won’t give anything away), but didn’t make sense for me as a reader. I am wondering if the action is going to happen in the second book, due to be released in April of next year.

That said, it is the first book that my husband, son, and I ALL read (appropriate for a 14 year-old boy, for sure!) and so it gave us something fun to talk about. The guys seemed to enjoy it more than me so if you are looking to do a mother & son book club (how fun would that be?), this is definitely one you could read together!

3 Out of 5 Stars

Bone Gap by Laura Ruby

Bone Gap by Laura Ruby

A small town is filled with gaps where the world looks differently and even the corn has a voice. When a kidnapping happens and the only witness can’t give descriptions to what the kidnapper looked like, the town’s whispers taint his reputation. He is determined to redeem himself (and the taken girl) and sets out on an adventure to get her back. He must fall into these mystical gaps to find her and the truth is revealed on why he could never fully see her captor.

I am such a big fan of magical realism in literature and this book delivers that so beautifully. The imagery that the author creates through words is astounding!  I really enjoyed this unique story and I think you will too if you are looking for a magical escape!

4 Out of 5 Stars


July 2016 Must-Reads

Read With Me This Year:

January Must-Reads

February Must-Reads

March Must-Reads

April Must-Reads

May Must-Reads

June Must-Reads

July 2016 Must-Reads from MomAdvice.com

What should I be adding to my library bag?  Leave your suggestions in the comments below! Looking for book ideas? Check out our entire Book section of the site! Don’t forget to friend me on GoodReads! xo

*this post may contain affiliate links- I only recommend what I love though.

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Tech Monitoring In Those Middle School Years

August 8th, 2016


This post is brought to you by CJ Affiliate’s VIP Content Service. Thank you to Norton by Symantec for sponsoring today’s post!

I have tried to live in an honest place as we have disclosed over the years our family’s struggles with filtering web content for our kids and creating a healthy balance of online and offline time. I admit, in these lazy days of summer, I have become a little less stiff with the rules. One thing that will not change though is the need to monitor what sites my kids are visiting. Today I want to talk a little bit about how we monitor tech time in the middle school years.

You see, this is a big transition year for us as parents because we have moved out of the elementary school years and are jumping into middle school. It’s the time where we are letting our oldest have a phone and where the kids are asking to build their own social media presence.

With a mom as a blogger and their father working as a web consultant, you would think we would be really cool about this stuff…but we aren’t.

I don’t feel bad about the overprotection at all though.

The things that they do on social media and the things they are viewing online can often do more harm than good. It can even follow them into adulthood as they are job seeking. I have big dreams for these two and I want to protect them as long as I can.

Although we have many procedures in place for their handheld devices, the content they have been viewing on the computers has been our biggest hurdle. My husband spends evening hours going through their web history and clicking to see what they have been up to. This requires many clicks to Minecraft music videos and hair tutorials.

Isn’t that how every dad wants to spend his time?

I’m pretty sure we would rather be drinking wine and binging on Netflix together.

Since we have been in the trenches with this for some time, I wanted to share with you things that we have been doing to try to do a better job with monitoring our middle school kids on the internet.

Call Family Meetings- Many family meetings have been called in our home as we do our best to monitor our kid’s technology time. Sometimes the kids want to call their own family meetings to revisit rules and sometimes we have to hold family meetings because rules have been broken.

As parents we are always striving to keep the communication lines open. Whenever we add new security measures or revisit the rules of technology in our home, we want to offer that kind of support and communication (even if they don’t always like the rules we are devising). Making them feel like active participants in the decision-making is really important to both of us.

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help on Setting Time Guidelines- When we were struggling to establish the right guidelines for our children, our family consulted with a child psychologist to see what time limits would work best. His advice was one hour of tech time on school nights and two hours on weekends/vacations. We have done our best to adhere to these guidelines to create a good balance of tech time and real-life time together.

Tech Monitoring In Those Middle School Years from MomAdvice.com

Install Internet Monitoring Software to Keep Them Safe- Although we have felt in control of handheld devices, we have felt less in control of the sites they were visiting on our computer. Often the restrictions installed where inhibiting us from doing our own work so we needed a solution that could help keep them safe (and our computers- more on that soon!)

Norton Security Premium

Norton by Symantec sent us a Norton Security Standard membership offering a year protection on ten devices in our home. This version of Norton also includes their family-friendly features (which you can purchase a la carte. We have been using it for the last month and we are both pleasantly surprised at the filtering it can do for web content. This security system goes way beyond just time restriction.

Norton Web Supervision

Norton Security offers another level of web supervision, allowing your kids to explore the web safely by blocking content that you deem unsafe.   It also offers a lot more depth into their search history,  allowing you to see words and phrases your kids are searching. This can help you to see what they are interested in as well as keep on top of  the inappropriate stuff to block.  In fact, you can see it all at a glance. Check out that screenshot above to see the info that will now be right at your fingertips.

Norton Time Management

Want to monitor time usage? Norton can do that for you too!

Just as important as all of that though, once your service is activated, you also have location supervision to monitor your child’s location on your Android & iOS devices so you can see where your kid is (and if they are where they are saying they are going to be- ahem!).  Please note, this option is available only in the US, Canada, UK, Australia, New Zealand & Japan. The iOS features are available just in the US.

The pricing on all that for the first year costs $49.99 and subsequent years are $99.99. They offer a variety of packages though for your needs including the Norton Security Deluxe (for 5 devices) and the Norton Security Standard (1 device)

Keep Your Computers Safe- Tragically, our computer died last month (R.I.P.) and its tragic death is because of the vulnerability of these computers as our kids played games and (unknowingly) loaded our computers up with malware. My husband had to buy a new computer and we are now relying on Norton to block all the malware.

This installation did not slow down our computers at all and it protects them from the daily Roblox malware attack.  It’s a welcome sight not to see my homepage screen changed or a bunch of random video pop-ups that I can never shut down now off our computer thanks to this security measure. For us, protecting our computers is important for our work and Norton can save us a lot of money to keep these computers functioning at their optimal performance.

To learn more about Norton by Symantec products, visit the Learning Center.

Model the Kind of Behavior You Want to See From Them- My husband & I have to be on our computers and devices a lot for work, our kids know that. This is how we pay our bills. The thing is, we can always do better. By doing a better job with this, we can teach them that social media does not need to be the center of our world. Having a clear work day schedule end time and getting the heck off the computer is now my priority.

These years? Precious. My people? They are precious too and far more precious than any social media interactions that I might be indulging in. I need to show them that and model that for them so they can do that for their own people someday!

Let’s chat! Do you have any tips for tech time monitoring? I’d love hear how you are doing this with your family!

This post is brought to you by CJ Affiliate’s VIP Content Service. Thank you to Norton by Symantec for sponsoring today’s post!

DIY Fabric Bulletin Board Tutorial

August 5th, 2016

DIY Fabric Bulletin Board Tutorial from MomAdvice.com

This post was created in partnership with Waverly Inspirations. Thank you for supporting the companies that support our site! 

What’s one of the things I dread the most about the new school year?

The papers.


All the time.

Hey, wasn’t there a kitchen counter here at one point?

In honor of back to school, I wanted to create a place where all those papers, awards, and fun art projects can be displayed so we can all reclaim our counters. Today  I’m making a gorgeous giant fabric bulletin board for the perfect paper storage spot for you or your kiddos. If you haven’t made a diy fabric bulletin board before, you are going to love this simple tutorial that even your big kids can do (with a little help from mom on the stapling!).

Waverly Inspirations Fabric- Paris Print

When I saw this month’s fabric selections from Waverly Inspirations (found at Walmart!), I  kept getting this print out to gaze at it. I just knew there was no way I could not put this in some kind of display especially since my little girl has an obsession with Paris.

I mean, so obsessed she’s been working on teaching herself French this summer.

We really wanted to let this magical fabric be on display in her room.

(PS- She also said she is the beautiful girl in the print with a dress and I am the old lady on the bench.  Thank you, Em- insert crazy-eyed emoji!).

DIY Fabric Bulletin Board Tutorial from MomAdvice.com

Supplies Needed to Make A Fabric Covered Bulletin Board

1- Frameless Bulletin Board (found this in the office supplies of the store!)

Upholstery Stapler

Upholstery Staples

Trim (I purchased 2- 3 yard packages to cover this board)

Your choice of matching Waverly Inspirations Fabric (measure the dimensions of your bulletin board to figure out yardage!)

Fabric Rotary Cutter

Rotary Mat

Hot Glue Gun & glue sticks

Optional (but fun!)- Waverly Paints, Fabric Button Kits, and scrap fabric

DIY Fabric Bulletin Board Tutorial from MomAdvice.com

Directions for Making a Fabric Covered Bulletin Board

DIY Fabric Bulletin Board Tutorial from MomAdvice.com

1. Make sure to press out any wrinkles in your fabric before beginning. Next, lay your fabric right-side out over the bulletin board, making sure to position the pattern so that it has nice straight lines.

DIY Fabric Bulletin Board Tutorial from MomAdvice.com

DIY Fabric Bulletin Board Tutorial from MomAdvice.com

2. After you have centered the fabric, flip the bulletin board over and begin pulling one long side tight to staple it directly into the framing on the back of the board. The most important thing is HOLD TIGHT to create that beautifully smooth surface. Repeat this on the other long side and then fold in the tops, creating neatly folded corners (just as you would with wrapping a package, making sure you are holding tight on each side. Did I mention, hold tight?

DIY Fabric Bulletin Board Tutorial from MomAdvice.com

3. You can now trim the excess fabric around the back of the frame. I lined my rotary mat right up to the edge and trimmed with the fabric rotary cutter. You could just just eyeball it and use a pair of scissors if you don’t have these two items in your craft supplies.

DIY Fabric Bulletin Board Tutorial from MomAdvice.com

DIY Fabric Bulletin Board Tutorial from MomAdvice.com

4. Finish your piece with your choice of trim. I loved the waviness in this one to add a decorative edge. I lined up and glued the two long sides first and then finished by gluing the shorter sides over, creating an overlapped corner. Play around with this with your own favorite trims and ribbons- the possibilities on that are endless.

DIY Fabric Bulletin Board Tutorial from MomAdvice.com

DIY Fabric Bulletin Board Tutorial from MomAdvice.com

DIY Fabric Bulletin Board Tutorial from MomAdvice.com

5. Finish with your choice of cute decorations. My daughter had fun painting wooden thumbtacks to match the color scheme and if you haven’t used a button making kit before, it is a blast and such a fun way to use up any scraps of fabric (all the instructions are on the back of the packaging!). We glued these buttons on to the thumbtacks to create decorative tacks for our papers.

DIY Fabric Bulletin Board Tutorial from MomAdvice.com

DIY Fabric Bulletin Board Tutorial from MomAdvice.com

We hope you find this idea inspiring for getting organized for another school year! I loved my daughter’s so much, I made one for myself to keep all my work projects organized. This craft can be done in less than an hour (even with making your own fabric tacks!).

Happy crafting!

This post was created in partnership with Waverly Inspirations. Thank you for supporting the companies that support our site! 

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Sundays With Writers: The One-in-a-Million Boy by Monica Wood

July 31st, 2016


I am always looking for special books that I think anyone could love and appreciate. One-in-a-Million Boy offers that perfect blending of sweet and sassy that I think any reader could appreciate. I am so excited to share an interview today with Monica Wood to understand some of the inspiration she had for this story! Best of all, it’s on sale today for $2.99 so hurry up and snag it at this price for a great summer reading escape!  The One-in-a-Million Boy by Monica Wood

In, The One-in-a-Million Boy, Ona is 104 and develops a fast friendship with a Scout who is obsessed with the Guinness Book of World Records. He believes Ona has a chance of winning, thanks to her age. Unfortunately, the boy tragically dies and his father is left to fulfill his son’s duties. Quinn has never been much of a father though, but it is through Ona that he discovers just how special his boy is.

The book flashes back to the special conversations the boy had with Ona around her kitchen table, is laced with true Guinness Book of World record holders, and a road trip adventure that brings the boy’s parents closer to Ona as she tries to seal the deal on her very own world record. This story is touching, heartfelt, and beautifully told.

I included this in our Must-Reads last month!

Now settle in with a cup of coffee for a chat with Monica Wood today to learn more about this sweet story!

Monica Wood

You have such a diverse body of work! You recently wrote a very successful memoir (When We Were the Kennedys) and I also understand you have written your first play which had an incredibly successful run. The One-in-a-Million Boy is equally incredible and such a beautiful read. What type of writing has brought you the most pleasure and which type of writing has been the most challenging for you?

What a lovely question! Playwriting turned out to be the easiest, at least for that first play. For one thing, I had only one tool: dialogue, which I love to write. Any time I’m writing dialogue I’m happy. Novels are by far the hardest. They are so big; you can’t hold the whole thing in your head at once; you can lay the pages out on the floor and look at them the way you can with a short story; and it takes so, so, so, so, SO long to figure out what the story is, who the characters are, and how everything fits together.

One-in-a-Million Boy

You chose to not name the little boy in this story. Is there any reason in particular you decided not to name him?

You know, some readers get really far into the book before they realize this. They page back to see if they missed it. I named him several times in the writing of the book but nothing felt right. In the end, I realized that I couldn’t name him because to name him would be to make him too moral, to corporeal, too much tethered to the earth. He is more of a presence, a spirit in the book. Hence, no name.

You bring such beauty and humor to the story of Ona and just the right voice for a woman of 104 years of age. Did you shape her character from anyone in your own life? What was your favorite scene to craft for this feisty woman?

My favorite scenes are between Ona and the boy, I think. They were both delightful company for me in the many years it took to complete the story. I had a very dear friend whom I did not meet until she was 87. She died at 98, still in possession of a valid driver’s license, and I count her as one of the loveliest friends ever. I miss her still.

The boy says, “I have deficiencies,” to explain some of his obsessions like the Guinness Book of World Records. It reminded me a little of Be Frank With Me, as the writer in that story also refers to these behaviors, but doesn’t actually label her character. As a reader, I am assuming the boy has Asperger’s. Why did you not want to label him in your story?

Mostly because I don’t know that he has Asperger’s or any other syndrome except his own quirky little personality. I was somewhat like this child in my own childhood: a list maker, an obsessive observer. Most writers I know were a little like that as children. I started this book in 2004, when Aspergers was not yet part of the common parlance. I’d heard of autism, I’m sure, but this was before “on the spectrum” was commonly used.

National Wildlife Refuge

source: wikipedia

 There is a pretty epic road trip in this story which brings your three characters together in some surprising ways. I love a good road trip story! What has been a favorite road trip of your own?

My husband and I drove across country and back in the 1980s. I’m a birder, so we planned our trip to hit lots of National Wildlife Refuges. Unlike national parks, refuges are almost always empty of tourists. It was wonderful to find ourselves nearly alone in so many spectacular places.

Kim Goodman- Eyeball Popper

(kim goodman- guinness record holder)

I’m curious to find out what is one of the strangest Guinness World Record that you found while researching for this project?

Oh, my. Where to begin? Those books are a testament to human goofiness and striving. I think the eyeball-popper takes the cake. Something like an inch or so. There’s a picture of her with her eyeballs literally OUT of their sockets.

If I could set a world record in anything, I’d love for it to be the record holder for most book pages read… or maybe most cups of coffee consumed over the course of a lifetime. What is one thing you wish you could set a record in?

I wouldn’t mind a record for most books sold in a single day. Wouldn’t that be cool?

Since your writing is so diverse, I am wondering what you are planning to write next?

I’m working on a new play at the moment. This one is harder because it’s not based on a previous book. So I’m back at the old “who are these people and why are they saying these things” stage of writing.

You can connect with Monica Wood on her website! I’m always thankful for these moments with writers and I hope you will pick up this amazing book! You can always connect with me on GoodReads, through our books section of our site, and you can read our entire Sundays With Writers series for more author profiles. Happy reading, friends!

*This post contains affiliate links!

It’s the 3 Little Things: Evening Snacks, Headphones For Busy People, & 80’s Awesomeness

July 29th, 2016


I won’t pretend this was an easy week. My husband and I are both scrambling to complete all-the-things so we can enjoy a vacation together as a family. All-the-things, it turns out, is a little more than we both bargained for, but I just keep thinking about that vacation reward that we earned with our kids! Yesterday evening we took the kids out for sushi and toasted to the partial completion of almost all the things.


It’s the best we can manage right now.

I can’t wait to have some unplugged time with my people.

Even though it has been busy, I have some fun stuff for my happy list this week!

Planters Nut-rition Chocolate Nut Protein Mix

My New Favorite Evening Snack

I have been working on a little snack station for the back to school season (coming soon!) and I wanted to have some healthy treats on hand for indulging in. I happened to pick some of these Planters NUT-rition Chocolate Nut mixes and they are absolutely amazing.

The chocolate soy nuts and granola clusters make this a yummy sweet treat at the end of the day while packing a 10 gram protein punch to balance out my wine.

It totally balances out.

I did the math for you.

They have several different varieties that come in little portion-controlled packs. I loved this so much that I wanted every crumb out of the bottom, tried to pour the crumbs in my mouth,  and accidentally spilled granola all over my face in a very embarrassing attempt to get every last bite. I didn’t claim to snack pretty!

Good thing I like to snack alone!

SoundPEATS Wireless Headphones


My Podcast Listening Got Way Better

I have been wanting to get a pair of wireless headphones for listening to audiobooks and podcasts around the house, but the prices have always seemed a little outrageous. I went hunting on Amazon and found these bluetooth wireless headphones for less than $20 that happened to have amazing reviews. I have been using them all week and they are truly AMAZING. All of the controls are in the plastic portion that rests around your neck and then the buds go in the ears. Normally earbuds bother me, but these don’t seem to bug me at all and the design of them allows for them to stay in better since they are supported around the neck. It can connect with my phone for long conference calls (way better on my old lady joints!) and it tells you audibly when it powers on, off, and about your battery life. REALLY loving these for tackling chores around the house and listening to my books! It’s also really good for ignoring my children.

Sing Street DVD

A New Favorite Musical

If you are a big fan of the ’80’s you will love SING STREET. ONCE is one of my favorite movie musicals and this film is from the same writer and director of that and he worked with Adam Levine on this project for all you Levine fans!

It’s about a boy who wants to impress a girl and tells her that he is in a band and needs her to star in his music video. The problem is… well, he doesn’t have a band. He gathers up all these kids and they create a band just for this opportunity and it is the cutest thing ever. The music is original and KILLER. Since it is set in Dublin the accents can be a little thick at times, but worth straining your ears for to hear this beautiful story. My husband and I agreed, it’s probably the best film we have seen this year! I think you will love it too!

Reading: Bone Gap and it is beautiful! If you like books that use magical realism then you will really love this YA read. I am reading it through my Scribd membership right now as one of their Scribd Selects (free-ish) book options!

Eating: It’s Orange Chicken night and I can’t wait to dig in!

Watching: Raunchy, but hilarious, Broad City is my new guilty pleasure this week!


Loving: This comic strip. No matter what side you are on, what a momentous day for our kids to see this moment in history! Also loving, catching Lights Out with my dad for his birthday! Happy birthday to the man that taught me the importance of reading! I love you!

Happy Friday, friends!

*this post may contain affiliate links- I only recommend what I love though. Check out past editions of It’s the 3 Little Things!

7 Ways to Help Kids Deal with Change

July 28th, 2016

From our marriage & parenting contributor, Mary Carver.

7 Ways to Help Kids with Change

This summer has been a rough one at my house. Our family has experienced a pretty significant amount of change in just a few months and, while it’s been good change, it’s been really hard on my eight-year-old daughter. We’ve spent hours talking and listening and praying and planning and, honestly, yelling and eye-rolling and crying. I’ve felt frustrated, exhausted and helpless as we’ve tried so hard to help her cope with what has been, to her, an overwhelming amount of uncertainty and change.

So, obviously, I’m the person to write a list of parenting tips for kids dealing with change! Okay, fine, expert I am NOT, but I can tell you the handful of strategies that has worked for my family. And then, in the comments, perhaps you can share what has worked for yours!

7 Ways to Help Kids Deal with Change

1. Remind them of the things that never change. Whether you are moving to a new town, joining a different church, or saying goodbye to a family member, reminding your children of the permanent things of life never hurts. Tell them, over and over if you need to, that you love them no matter what. Tell them that they are smart and brave and strong, that God is in control, that family comes first. Tell them the fundamental truths that your family believes, and tell them often. Remind them that some things, like your love for them, never, ever changes.

2. Maintain routines whenever possible. As a grown-up who doesn’t love change, I know how important routines can be to me. Sometimes, the simple familiarity of putting away groceries or checking my social media accounts in the same order can be soothing enough to help me deal with chaos in other parts of my life. Kids are no different. So even when you are frantically packing boxes or going to doctor’s appointments or contacting lawyers or buying uniforms for their new school, the regular things of life can help your family deal with stress. If you always eat tacos on Tuesday, try to keep eating tacos on Tuesday – even if that means grabbing a bag of pre-made tacos in the drive-thru or using those packed boxes as a makeshift dinner table.

3. Listen. Just listen. I’m a fixer. I know it’s more of a cliché for the man of the house to be the bad listener/wannabe fixer, but I play that role here. I have very limited patience for listening to the same old sob story, the same old fears and anxieties without pushing for a plan, a strategy, a list of things to do TO FIX THE PROBLEM. And sometimes that’s great and helpful and smart…and sometimes it’s not. Sometimes my family just needs me to sit down and listen, to hold their hands, to give hugs and smiles AND NOT ADVICE. And while that doesn’t come easily or naturally to me, I’m trying to learn to do it sooner rather than later, before we’re all frustrated on top of all the other feelings.

4. Help them express their feelings. My mom is a teacher, and she’s always coming up with great ideas for helping my girls share their feelings. She knows that sometimes kids don’t have the skills or maturity to say what’s on their minds, so drawing a picture or singing a song might be the best way for them to process and express their emotions. I’m still working on this one!

5. Take a break from the stress. When I get overwhelmed, I tend to stick my head in the sand. I’m not really proud of this habit, but it does help me recognize that sometimes we need a break from dealing with drama. If your family is in the midst of a change, odds are you have lots of tasks and to-dos weighing on your mind and your schedule. And you need to do them! (Don’t be like me and avoid them!) But if you can find a few minutes to watch a funny video with your kids or a few hours to take them to the park, that break will likely go a long way toward relieving the tension and their anxiety.

6. Talk about the good parts of the upcoming change. Does your new house have a big back yard? Will the new baby be super cute? Will your new job mean you travel less? Even changes that are hard and even unwanted – like death, divorce, job loss, or a friend moving away – might have a silver lining. If you can help your kids identify something good in the situation, not only will they be able to adapt to their current circumstances better, but they’ll develop the skills needed to choose joy in all kinds of situations.

7. Remember the past. Change can be exciting and good, even when it’s difficult. But the thing that came before? The one you’re moving past or growing out of? Your kids probably think it was good, too. So take one last photo in front of your old house before the moving truck pulls away. Make a quick photo book of pictures of your child and her friends. Give them some prompts to list out all the things they loved about second grade or their beloved pet or their soccer coach. Let them keep their mementos and help them preserve their memories, allowing them to look back and remember even as you all move forward.

Originally I was going to write a post about books that help kids deal with change. I’d read It Will Be Okay: Trusting God Through Fear & Change with my girls, and I was certain other books must be out there on this topic. I generally assume that books are the answer for all problems, so why not a whole list of them?!

What I found, though, is that similar posts had already been written. And since I didn’t want to reinvent the wheel (but did want to make sure to share these resources with you), I thought I’d just tell you about the lists I found. Great Kids has a list of seven children’s books about moving, and the University of Wisconsin has a long list of children’s books about various types of change. And my friend Tsh wrote about 14 books that help ease children through transition several years ago, and it’s one I’ve bookmarked for future changes!

Okay, now it’s your turn! As I said, I’m far from being an expert on this topic, so I’d love to hear what’s worked for your family.

How do YOU help your kids deal with change?

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Amy’s Notebook 07.27.16

July 27th, 2016

Tutu Cake via Oh Happy Day

Source: Oh Happy Day


Seriously adorable tutu cake topper.

12 minimalist You Tube channels to follow- inspiring!

Sweet family dinner rituals- do you have one?

More books to add to your library wish list for 2016.

I love an inspiring home tour and this one is lovely!

Sage advice for summer communications.

Tiny kitchen with style via Apartment Therapy

Source: Apartment Therapy


Tiny kitchen inspiration.

15 Things About Living In Jordan- I love learning about other countries and their traditions.

On my summer sipping bucket list.

A trick to stop scrolling through those social media feeds- love this perspective!

God creating animals (all the LOL’s- language!!)

I hope you enjoyed our notebook, a collection of gathered links to DIY crafts, food projects, thrifty ways to spruce up your home, and thoughtful reads. Nothing brings me more joy than to highlight other fabulous bloggers. Follow me on Pinterest for daily inspiration!


How to Make a School Supplies Cake

July 26th, 2016

How to Make a School Supplies Cake from MomAdvice.com.

It is hard to believe that school is just around the corner, but the school supplies have appeared in the stores! In honor of this I’m going to show you an adorable craft you can create for your kids as a back-to-school gift, a centerpiece for a back-to-school dinner together, or as a teacher gift to get the year started off right. The best part about this craft is that you can take full advantage of all of those back-to-school sales and make this for around $20!

School supplies cake-items needed.

Supplies Needed For Your School Supplies Cake: (affiliate links provided for more information)

1 8″x4″H cake form (or “dummy”)

1 box of 50 Crayola Markers

1 box of 12 yellow pencils (unsharpened or sharpened- your choice)

3 packages of colored rubber bands

1 package file folder bands

2 packages of Post-it Notes

2 skewers

Washi tape, chalkboard clip frames, and scissors (or any variety of fun items you have in your craft room- make this your own!)

School supplies cake tutorial


1. Place your cake form on a cake stand or on a cardboard cake circle to begin. This will help hold your project steady while preparing it.

2. Wrap one file folder band around your cake form. Remove markers from packaging and insert them in, between the band and cake form. Once you have your markers all inserted, add a second band to secure everything together.

3. Take your pencils and begin inserting these between your markers (every four markers or so) to fill out the rest of your cake. Save four of these and use them to frame your Post-it notes.


4. Slip your Post-it Notes in the space leftover, tucking them securely under the bands, as shown in the picture above.

5. Top your cake with rubber bands. Finish with flags made from washi tape or purchase clip-on cardboard labels to write a special message to your kids or teacher. Push the skewers into your cake form to secure.

How to Make a School Supplies Cake from MomAdvice.com.

How cute is this?

And if you’d like another take on a back-to-school supplies cake, here’s another version we created when the kids were younger:


Click here for the steps to create this cake.

Here’s to another great school year!

*this post contains affiliate links- thank you for your support!

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Kathleen Tessaro’s 3 Favorite Books

July 25th, 2016


Author: Kathleen Tessaro (Author of Rare Objects and many more novels! Read more about Kathleen in our interview HERE!!

Kathleen Tessaro’s 3 Favorite Books

Possession by A.S. Byatt

Possession by A.S. Byatt

A.S. Byatt’s “Possession” is the masterpiece which has inspired me the most structurally in all my novels. I have never recovered from the sheer audacity and scope of its ambitions.

The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford

The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford

Nancy Mitford’s “The Pursuit of Love” is my desert island book – one I could happily read over and over again for it’s flawless mixture of biting wit, sudden tenderness and clear, unadulterated love of language.

Arcadia by Tom Stoppard

Arcadia by Tom Stoppard


Tom Stoppard’s play “Arcadia” completely transformed my idea of storytelling. I will never forget the delicious tension of the audience, balanced on the edge of their seats the night I saw it at the National, hanging on every word; thrilled to keep up with the character’s formidable intellects as they unravel a centuries old mystery that married quantum physics with the tragic fate of young woman in the eighteenth century. He taught me never to write down to my audience.


 This post contains affiliate links! To learn more about the authors featured, please visit our Sundays With Writers series!


Clare Mackintosh’s 3 Favorite Books

July 24th, 2016

Clare Mackintosh

Author: Clare Mackintosh (Author of I Let You Go. Read more about Robin in our interview HERE!!)

Clare Mackintosh’s 3 Favorite Books

Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

I read this book more than twenty years ago, and must have read it a dozen times since. The characters are incredibly vivid, and the twists superb. It’s the book every writer wishes they’d written.

Find Her by Lisa Gardner

Find Her by Lisa Gardner

A recent release, as a contrast to du Maurier’s classic! I’m a huge fan of Lisa’s books, and Find Her is her best yet. Terrifyingly plausible, I read it in a single sitting and am recommending it to everyone.

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

I felt bereft when this story ended. It is that rare thing; a page-turner of a book, yet written in language so perfectly constructed it’s almost poetry. Thought-provoking, beautiful, haunting.

 This post contains affiliate links! To learn more about the authors featured, please visit our Sundays With Writers series!