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Weekly Dinner Plan 1/20-1/26

Weekly Dinner Plan for January 20th


  • Sauteed Sausage/Peppers/Onions
  • Mac and Cheese for kids (and probably hubby too, in all honesty)
  • Salad for me


  • Taco Tuesday!! (Ground beef, hard shell + toppings)
  • Sauteed veggies with seasonings or rice.

We typically do ground beef tacos, this is my favorite taco seasoning, and then we stuff hard shells with the meat and cheese and bake before eating! Such a life hack for hard shell tacos- they do not break and crack nearly as bad when you bake in the meat and cheese.  Then we add all the other toppings individually as we are filling our plates!

Another note about tacos- they are so versatile and change at our house based on mood/ingredients on hand.  Sometimes we keep the meat pretty plain, but I love to add black beans and salsa while it is cooking as well!


  • Crockpot beef tips
  • Egg noodles
  • Some veggies... (not sure yet. Steamed broccoli, sauteed veggies, whatever mood strikes me I guess)


  • French toast
  • Fruit or Smoothies


  • Pizza roll-ups!
Pizza and movie night! My kids LOVE pizza and movie night, and we try to do in whenever we have a wide open Friday night! We vary between takeout, homemade, or pizza-ish recipes.


  • Chicken strips and waffle fries for the kids
Date night for hubby and I and a few couple-friends we have.  Our oldest will babysit and make chicken and waffle fries for them all.  Hopefully they decide to toss a few veggies and dip along with it or something but.. it's likely to be followed by popcorn and Disney+, who am I kidding?  As long as we get a quickie dinner date with friends, I have learned to let go a little.


  • Crockpot turkey tenderloins
  • Baked potatoes
  • Veggies

Happy meal planning! 

See the rest of my weekly meal planning here.

P.S. I do Walmart Grocery Pickup for the bulk of my shopping list- total game changer and I can't recommend it enough! (HELLO- grocery shopping in my jammies at night.)  If you haven't tried it before, use my referral code for $10 off your first purchase.

An Honest Review of ThredUp - Online Consignment Shopping!

I've been a fan of consignment shopping for a while now.  Our town has a kids store that lets you bring in clothes to sell, and then use store credit to buy new things, and it has been so great! I've been a regular there for years and years (maybe a decade!?) because it is so nice to get kids stuff (clothes and equipment) without exchanging any actual money- just getting rid of the old stuff!  Especially because kids go through sizes like crazy- in the baby stage where they are changing sizes every 3 months- it is fantastic.  They also are great about donating to a fantastic cause, so I typically donate anything I'm not able to sell to them.

Our town, however, does not have any such store for adults!  When I saw ThredUp advertised online, it seemed like something I'd want to try.  I loved consignment shopping for the kids, and figured it would be something I'd enjoy for myself too!  ThredUp is also doing an advertising campaign about how good second-hand shopping is for the planet, which is so true- but honestly not the main reason I considered it in the first place.  I was just looking for budget friendly options, as well as being able to buy higher quality pieces while staying in my budget, so the planet-helping part is just a bonus!

I've placed a couple of orders with ThredUp now, and thought I'd share a few things I've learned, liked, and wish were different with the whole process. (This is not a sponsored post by any means, they have NO CLUE who I am, I just wanted to share a tip or two! However, I do have a link that you could click to receive $10 off your first purchase, and I would get a $10 credit in return!  I'll share that at the end!)

First off, my favorite thing to purchase second-hand for myself is jeans.  I actually prefer second-hand shopping for this, because it's so nice to have a variety of brands all in one place.  This way, I can try an assortment of styles to find one that works for me, and it's all in one place instead of trekking to a miscellany of stores to find which brand of jeans I like.  Jeans are like... the universal struggle for fit and sizing... am I right?!  I have found a few brands and fits I like from purchasing through ThredUp, and then I will just search on ThredUp for more of the same brand, or use the info to buy another pair of the same style from the actual retailer (a pair I liked is LOFT for example, so if I search on ThredUp for a bit and come up dry, I can just order the exact same pair from LOFT if I'd like another pair or a different color, etc.)

ThredUp has a pretty painless return policy, which has already come in handy.  I ordered quite a few items a month or two ago, probably 6 or so, and only ended up liking 2 of them once I tried them all on.  I opted to return the rest for store credit, and used it to buy a few different items that I liked much better, and ended up keeping them all.  I should mention, my return was mostly due to fit issues, and wasn't due to quality or anything like that.  They give pretty accurate descriptions on their website, and will state whether the items are pilled, faded, etc.  The main issue I have is forgetting to read that part- because it's certainly an adjustment to ordering second hand items vs a store's webpage that is all brand new items and are obviously all meant to be is pristine condition.  I only opt to order items from ThredUp that are listed as being "in excellent condition, you might mistake it for brand new" or actually new with tags on it.  That being said, I recently ordered a black J. Crew blazer/jacket type item, without paying attention to the description, and it was more faded than I would have liked, so it went back with my returns.  The rest of my returns were just because I misjudged the size I would need on a few other J.Crew blazer/sweater/jacket items I was looking for, and they looked to big and bulky on me.

The actual return process works like this- you can choose store credit for a full refund- minus a possible restocking fee of $1.99 per item, and free return shipping, or you can receive a refund of your actual money, but are subject to shipping costs to send it back.  They also state that they will make things right if they have listed the item incorrectly, so that's nice to know! I have not had any experience with that part of it- but would hope they live up to that promise.  This return policy could be an issue for some people- paying return shipping to get your money refunded sure feels like a waste of money when so many companies offer free returns with online purchases, however, it doesn't really bother me, because I was happy to just take the store credit and order something else.  

I have appreciated being able to buy nicer brands, like J. Crew for example, for such a fraction of the cost.  I also had a lucky find when a blogger I follow posted about a top she was wearing from J.Crew last year, and it was no longer sold from the retailer.  I was able to search through the "white J.Crew short-sleeved tops" in my size and find one!  I think it is something that will really come in handy when I find an item I like that is sold out at the store or just discontinued- there's always a chance to find it at ThredUp!  Actually the other item I have my eye out for is J.Crew as well, and was recommended by a few other bloggers.  Purchasing it new is WAY out of my price range, but on ThredUp it's not a big deal and costs about the same as buying a sweater at Target or something.

The other thing to know is that the website itself can be overwhelming.  There are a TON of items and it's hard to know where to start.  I typically have gone to the website with a certain item in mind (like the specific J.Crew tops I talked about), or a certain general type of item (like "jeans"), and I will just filter it down by size, a few brands I like, fit options (like skinny leg for example) and browse from there.  Another option is to just shop by brand, and browse through the tops and bottoms in that brand- just make sure to filter it down to your size too so you're only seeing things that are a good option for you.  You can also filter it by selecting only items that are "new with tags" or in "excellent condition", which is another filter I like to have on my searches.  I figure, the more you can filter it down, the better, because I do not have the patience to scroll through 35 pages of things I may not even want, and want to filter it down closest to the items I would consider buying as possible.

The other best tip I have for you, while browsing their website, it to add anything you are even considering to your bag.  Remember, it's not like a regular retailer with a full stock of items, typically there is just 1.  Because of that, I add anything I might consider to my bag, and then when I'm done browsing, I filter through my shopping bag more closely and remove any of the items I really don't need or want.  They will leave items in your bag for 24 hours, but then remove them automatically to open them back up to other customers to purchase, so keep that in mind as well!

I do see that they carry children's clothing as well, but haven't given that a try yet.  I'm so happy with my local kids' store, but may check out the ThredUp selection for more options.

You can sell your old clothes to ThredUp as well, and their are a few options for how to do this.  I can't speak much to how that works, because I have not done it yet.  Have any of you tried this with success?

Have any of you tried ThredUp?  What great things have you found?  Have you had a good experience with them overall?  I've only ordered a few times now, so I am excited to keep trying it.  Share any tips you have for me in the comments please!

Give $10, Get $10

Give $10 to spend and get $10 to shop after a friend places their first order.

Click above for my referral link for ThredUp!  If you click on it, you should be able to get $10 off your first order! Hooray!

Easter Basket Ideas - If you're like me and haven't shopped yet!

I'm not sure how on top of it you are, but I am definitely just about to purchase some Easter basket items for the first time this week!  I know some people shop way in advance, my best friend (who is super organized in comparison) purchased all of her Easter goodies like a month or more ago.  I don't want to hang on to it that long or anything- so I usually just pop out once real quick, a few days before Easter, and grab a few items.

Our Easter baskets come from us, we've just never had any from the Easter Bunny- and it works well for us.  We do a big scavenger hunt with clues for the kids to find their baskets on Easter Morning and it's their favorite! I haven't decided on a hiding spot yet! (I really do work best under the last minute pressure!).  In the past they have been hidden in the oven, in the playhouse outside, and in the dryer, to name a few ideas!  We make them zig-zag to every room of the house to find their clues before they find them though!

I like to do a good mix of books, toys, candy, and some sort of practical item- so I rounded up a few of the ideas I'm tossing around for this year, or other ideas I've used in the past.  We do the same mix of treats, toys, books, and practical items for Valentine's day, Christmas Stockings, etc- so these are ideas that work for those holidays as well!

Books!  The one purchase we have made for Easter so far is a pair of Sandra Boynton board books for our youngest little guy.  My husband spotted them while grocery shopping the other day, and could not pass them up! We love Sandra Boynton- and we read "Not The Hippopotamus" like, daily around here, so when we realized there was a book "Not the Armadillo" we about died!  At the end of the hippo version, my son tells the armadillo to go with them EVERY SINGLE TIME- so I know this book will be a big hit.

We don't typically do an "Easter" themed book, we just do a book or two that they would enjoy and can read during any season.

We are thinking about getting the next books in The Land of Stories series for our 10 year old and 14 year old (they are hoping to read the series together and start a "book club" together), and the newest Owl Diaries for our 7 year old. 

Water Bottles!  We love these Contigo ones for all the kids, and they work well for our toddler as well.  Our bigger girls also love this type of metal water bottle, and would love to get these in their baskets as well!

Pajamas!  It's a good time of year to grab each kid a new pair of Spring/Summer pajamas since the weather is changing, and they could use a refresh!  I like to roll them up with a cute ribbon around them and tuck them in their baskets! 

I do like to think through a few things we need like that and add them to their baskets since I was going to probably buy them in a few weeks anyways!  So my biggest tip is to keep that in mind while filling their basket!  It's an easy way to put a few extra things in it that you were going to buy either way!

Toddler Boys' 4pc Dino Pajama Set - Just One You® made by carter's Green/White - image 1 of 1

Girls' Rainbow 3pc Pajama Set - Cat & Jackâ„¢ Pink - image 1 of 1

Spring/Summer toys! Again, the weather is changing and we can always use a refresh on some staple outdoor toys! We like to fill their baskets with sandbox toys, bubbles, sidewalk chalk and some of the fun sidewalk accessories like stencils, paint, spray chalk paint, etc.

We don't typically include things like swimwear, towels, goggles, or anything like that unless we have a vacation planned.  It just isn't going to be warm enough in MN for those for a while (we just had a snowstorm that left us with new piles that need to melt!), so those are things that I sometimes include in a "Last Day of School" gift basket or something if they need them.  This year, we got new ones prior to our traditional New Year's Eve waterpark stay, so we don't need them anyways.  However, if we lived in a warmer climate, I would totally consider those for Easter- so keep that as an option if it works for you!

Treats!  We like to buy a few fun Easter themed treats like Reese's eggs, jellybeans, Egg gum (these are such a huge hit every year!), and then something like Annie's fruit snacks and bunny crackers- honestly just because they are bunny shaped and fit with the theme!

Art Supplies!  Markers, crayons, dot stampers, paints, stickers- you name it!  These are a fun basket filler, especially if you need a refresh!  We are adding these Chunkies to their baskets this year because they seem super fun!

 My kids love art stuff, and are always requesting sketch pads and little notepads- so we may do one of those as well! I love these Bible themed adult coloring books for my girls- Color the Psalms, Color the Gospel, and Color the Proverbs.

Hopefully this list helps a few "last minute" shoppers like me!  We still have almost a week!  Good luck shopping and prepping!

Do you hide your Easter baskets as well?  Do you do an Easter egg hunt?  We are lucky, in that my parents host an Easter egg hunt, so we don't need to worry about what to stuff in eggs!  Happy Easter!

March Mini Book Reviews

I read some super great books last month, yet again!  I really haven't been disappointed in any recently. 

We had quite the library haul last time, including some super fun reads for all the kids, and a few cookbooks/food related books I browsed through!  It's about time to head back and restock, and I'm planning to share a few of the fun ones my kids have been devouring as well lately (in another post)!

Here's what I managed to get through in March- it has been a busy year so far, so getting through even a few a month feels like an accomplishment at this point!

*Please note that some of these links include affiliate links. If you make a purchase through my affiliate link I will earn a commission. This is provided at no extra cost to you.

1.) Girl, Stop Apologizing by Rachel Hollis- I listed to this one on Audible.  I have to mention, I preordered it, and loved waking up to a new book all ready to go in my Audible library on the day it came out!  It felt like such a fun surprise/gift, that I will definitely be preordering other books for this sole purpose!  Aside from that, the book itself was great!  I enjoyed her first one, Girl Wash Your Face, and this was a great listen as well.  I think audio books is key for me with these types of books, because I find it motivational to listen to someone telling me to get my act together and that I can do great things.  It just feels like.. direct and personal I guess?! Plus, I could listen while I was doing things, which made me motivated to do more things, and I really got some stuff done thanks to this book.  I think both books are something I would go back and listen to again, when I need another boost of positive thinking and motivation, so I'm happy to own them both. 

2.) The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt - I started this book, and then put it down for a week or so when another book came into the library.  I don't typically do that, but the beginning of this one just wasn't reeling me in quite yet.  HOWEVER- I am super glad I picked it back up, because I ended up LOVING it. The main premise is a middle school aged boy who stays with his teacher alone on Wednesday afternoons, because the rest of his classmates go to a religion class at either the Jewish temple or the Catholic church, but because he is neither, he stays in class.  It's also set during the Vietnam war.  The situations he gets into and the ideas in his head about his teacher "hating" him and all sorts of other things are super funny, and the book is just so enjoyable.  Go read it!  I highly recommend! This was a recommendation from Janssen at Everyday Reading- I'm pretty sure she claims it as one of her favorite books of all time! She has so many good ones recommended that I haven't read before, and after reading a few of her faves (see the next book on my list as well), and loving them myself, I'm willing to try a few more she recommends!  We must have a very similar reading style, which is so helpful to find in another person- so it's more likely that other books she recommends will be to my taste as well! 

3.) The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen - This was the first book I've read by this author.  She seems to write YA books mainly?  I love a good YA book (see the book before this one.. ) so this was right up my alley!  The book is about a teenage girl grieving her father's death, a "perfect" boyfriend who is away for the summer, and a new group that she meets during her summer job.  She goes through things with friends, family, and relationships, and it's all just a great book.  Honestly, I stayed up late and read the whole thing in one day because I just couldn't find a place to stop and put it down.  I was so eager to get through all of it and I loved it.  Hoping to check into a few more books by this author and see if they're all this good!

4.) Take Good Care of the Garden and the Dogs by Heather Lende - I figured since I had read her other two books, I might as well read the third and finish them all!  I also tend to place holds at the library based on authors when I'm not sure what to read next, so these ones came in back to back.  (I did a mini review of another one of her books last month in my February Mini Reviews.)  This one was good as well, it's about a time in her life that she is recovering from a terrible accident and the loss of her mother.  It includes more fun tales of life in small-town Alaska, which I love, and get me by until I can finally travel to Alaska for myself!  I found this one a little bit harder to follow- it just seemed to jump around a little more, but it makes sense that this is just how she was feeling during all of these big changes and events that are hard to go through.  Still a good read, and I still recommend it!

I have started a few for April that I can't wait to tell you more about!  I'm listening to Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin (who can't make a bad thing, I swear), and I'm reading The Gratitude Diaries by Janice Kaplan and loving it so far!  I need to find a good fiction read to get started on!  Any recommendations for me?  I'll have to go to my Pinterest lists and pick a few- I know I have about a thousand that I've told myself to remember to add to my holds list at the library!

Also, I listen to my audio books on Audible, and have a code for a Free 30 day trial, with 2 free audio books!  If you want to give it a try- here's the code.

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Easter Dress Ideas: Shopping for my Girls!

We typically buy some type of new Easter dress for the girls each year.  When looking for a dress to wear for Easter, we aren't the type to buy the more fancy, large, fluffy style of Easter dresses.  I just don't like to buy a dress that they would never wear again, because honestly, we just don't have occasions that call for something so dressy.  Also, our Easter celebrations are hardly formal enough to require it!  We need a dress that allows for them to look nice at church and brunch, but then run around like crazy, inside and outside, for their annual Easter egg hunt at my parents' home.  Also, we live in Minnesota, and the weather at that time is so unpredictable.  So often, they end up with sweaters, tights or leggings, and sometimes even coats, hats and gloves paired with them!

I recently took the girls shopping at the mall, per their request for a fun thing to do on a Saturday, and spotted a few good options for their Easter dresses, that will also work well throughout the Spring and Summer for any occasion that pops up.  I'll share those first, and later this week I'll do a round up of options I've found while online shopping for myself- because let's be honest, I did not get a chance to browse for myself very much at the mall with 4 children.  

As a family, we also need something nice looking to wear to my youngest daughter's First Communion celebration this year, which is shortly after Easter, so these outfits will all be doing double duty! As a reminder, my girls are 7, 10, and 14.

*None of these are affiliate or sponsored links, I just wanted to share what I'm shopping for.

1.) This lemon dress - I'm such a sucker for anything with lemons on it.  I LOVE this dress, and I'm hoping I can convince one of my gals to give it a whirl.  It has the smocked top, which is adorable, and I love the ruffled edge.

2.) This eyelet number - Okay, I'm also a sucker for eyelet.  On myself, on the kids, you name it!  This one is so sweet, and so Easter-like.  I love that it's longer, which definitely makes it easier for church and for all the playing without accidentally showing their undies.

3.) This rainbow dress with the lacy overlay- This feels super spring-y to me, and quite honestly, the rainbow colors just appeal to my younger girls.  It's so nice when a dress is a win-win for both of us, because that doesn't always happen!  We seem to have very different tastes sometimes, in what I think is adorable, and what really appeals to their own "style" or whatever.  This one would keep us all happy.

4.) This floral dress- I love this floral dress from Old Navy.  My favorite colors, and the ones I feel work best for Easter and spring are the cream floral, the green floral, and the yellow stripe!  I love the longer sleeves, it feels more weather appropriate for us, and the jersey material makes it comfy to wear all day and run around, while still looking nice enough for our church celebrations in the morning!

5.) Another floral dress from Old Navy! - This one appears to have the same green floral pattern as the one above, and I also love the blue floral option.  So pretty!  It also has the smocked top, which I think is so, so sweet for Spring.

5.) This jumpsuit - This jumpsuit was adorable!! The sizing wasn't quite right for my oldest daughter (14), who is desperately looking for a jumpsuit rather than a dress this year. But it would be adorable for anyone who is truly still fitting into the girls' department.

She is in a tough place, size-wise, because she is kind of on the line between an XL in the girls' department and an XS in the juniors.  It comes in handy because she has twice the options as the other girls, but with jumpsuits it seems especially tricky- it needs to be long enough in the torso, but narrow enough for her tiny self!  I think the solution may be to look at a store with a true "juniors" department- I'm thinking Kohls?  An XS womens size at Old Navy was much too large on her. Otherwise, maybe just trying on quite a few at a few different stores and hoping something fits appropriately! Target, Justice, Kohls, all had a few promising options online. 

Wish us luck!  I'd love some advice if anyone has found some great jumpsuits for their teen?!  Leave some ideas in the comments please!

There really were so many other cute options, but for our weather, felt more appropriate in the summer.  I may do another round up of summer dresses for our girls, because they love a good summer dress- and there are so many cute ones that work well for playing in as well.  More to come on that!

Our Favorite Early Reader Book Series

 We have kind of had a variety of readers in our house so far.  Teaching them to read, and enjoy reading, has been different with each kids, as is everything I guess.  Nora struggled a little, and still doesn't enjoy it as much as I'd like her to.  Addison was quick to learn, actually, she surprised me in kindergarten when I found out she was reading much more difficult books at school than I was providing her with at home.  Don't underestimate I guess. Lulu struggled.  She went to a reading tutor, who was also the kindergarten teacher at our school whom we love and cherish so much, and really took some time and effort.  She is still growing as a reader, but has finally reached a point that she is a strong enough reader to really find books that she enjoys, and that have much more of an entertaining story line, so she's growing in leaps and bounds in her reading abilities all of the sudden.  
Teaching them all to love reading as much as I do is a life-long journey I suppose!  Our toddler really loves books at this point, and we must read him 2 million books a day (definitely not an exaggeration or anything...), so it will be interesting to see how that goes in the future.. as of right now, it's not even on my radar.  I'd love to just potty-train him before I stress about any of that! Ha!

I thought it may be helpful to pull together a list of very early readers that we have loved with each of our kids.  Something that I found helpful about all of the books on this list, is the fact that they are a series.  I think it really helped to find a book they enjoyed practicing, and then showing them more with the same characters, so they can get into it a little bit more.  It definitely made it more enjoyable for my kids, and honestly as an adult, I love books that come in a series, because once you get to know a character, it's so fun to see more of them!  I have linked a variety of them below, so just click on the links if you're looking to get any of them for yourself!  

Also, none of this are specifically "boy" or "girl" books, so I feel like they would appeal to any variety of child out there.  I saved all of these for my son after my daughters finished reading them, and think he will love them just the same.

*Please note that some of these links include affiliate links. If you make a purchase through my affiliate link I will earn a commission. This is provided at no extra cost to you.

1.) Henry and Mudge - This is a fun series about a boy (Henry) and his big dog (Mudge).  They have a variety of adventures, and the stories are just super fun.  All 3 of my kids enjoyed them so far.  They are more advanced than, say the Biscuit ones I listed below, and my kids really loved that they were their first introductions into a "chapter" book.  They definitely enjoyed reading a few chapters and placing a book mark in it like a big shot.  They are still great for very early readers, and don't use too many overly difficult words to tell the stories.  We always just took turns reading the pages of these, or snuggling in with our kids and helping when they got stuck on a word, and transitioning to these was a breeze.

2.) Biscuit - These are just a really good, basic, beginning reader book.  There are quite a few of them, and all of my kids have enjoyed them for the basic fact that the main character is a puppy.  The words and sentences are simply, easy to understand, and use a lot of the words they know in those very early stages of reading.  They have worked super well for all my kids so far as the next step after the Bob Books or Tug the Pup "I Can Read" books, and I have a big pile stashed aside in my toddler's closet for his turn learning to read with them!

3.) Elephant and Piggie - Okay, these ones aren't a leveled reader like some on the "I Can Read" or "Green Light Reader" books, that are clearly made for early level readers, and sorted out into "Level 1, Level 2, Level 3," etc., but I HAVE to add them in this list.  Mo Willems is like, our favorite around here, and all of his books are GOLD, clearly, but this series took on a whole new life with my 2nd grader Lulu.  She was slower to catch on with reading, or really just slower to enjoy it.  It was a struggle to get her to read because she wasn't finding it enjoyable, and wasn't a strong enough reader to read books that she found enjoyable, and it was a whole thing.  We had her in extra tutoring and really tried lots of approaches, and it just continues to boil down to... finding books she really enjoys.  Elephant and Piggie was the first of any books she had met that really took her in and she enjoyed it on a whole new level.  The very first book she read of the series sent her on a spree of re-reading it over and over, and then acting out each and every sentence in the book as she memorized it.  Since then, she has acquired every book in the series, and a few that she owns multiple copies of, thanks to owning the Elephant and Piggie Biggie, and then later this full set with bookends that she proudly displays in her bedroom.  These books are adorable and hilarious, and really turned this entire reading thing around for my little girl, so Mo Willems is basically a hero at my house.  I also can't think about these books without loving memories of a smaller version of Lulu, zooming around her bedroom, putting on a full production of I Am Invited to a Party!  She has also received the Elephant and Piggie Art-tivity book and LOOOOVED that as well.

4.)  Green Light Readers (Jasper & Joop, Gideon & Otto) - These Green Light Readers are super adorable.  We own the two listed above, and love them.  We have found them more frequently at the small town bookstore we love, or on Amazon.  I can't quite figure why they don't seem to be promoted as heavily as the "I Can Read" books that you find ALL OVER THE PLACE, at Target, in book orders, etc.  Amazon has lots and lots of them, and next time around, I may try to get more of these for my little guy to read with.  We really enjoyed them quite a bit more than some of the I Can Read books, which seem so heavily influenced by marketing and tv characters.  I mean, don't get me wrong, my kids love their Disney Princesses as well, but personally, I love the sweet characters in these books, and the levels/words used seemed to be more on par with my kids at each reading level.  Our reading tutor loved them, and promptly went to purchase quite a few for her kindergarten class. Check out these ones from the series as well: Gus, Gemma and Gus, Ollie the Stomper, and so many more cute ones!

5.) Little Bear - I may or may not be adding these to the list for myself.  I just love Little Bear and his friends.  I love the way the stories are written, and I think they make a fantastic bedtime story to lull you off into a dreamy land where a bear lives in a cottage with his Mama and Papa bear, and is friends with a duck, chicken, owl, cat, girl and her doll.  The cartoon has also been one of my favorites forever, so of course I jumped at any opportunity to read these books with my kids.  So fun, so sweet, such good lessons Little Bear learns and adventures to read about. Here are a few more in the series. Little Bears Visit, Little Bears Friend, A Kiss for Little Bear, Father Bear Comes Home.

Has your family loved any of the books on this list with your early readers? Are you like me, and prefer the ones that have a series to go with them?  We definitely read our fair share of stand alone early-reader books as well, but these became favorites repeatedly.  Do you have any more I should add to the list?  Finding good books during this stage of reading can be so tricky, and I love to have a whole bunch ready in my back pocket to request at the library or search for on Amazon to try to entice my kids to find some they love, and want to read themselves!  Leave some more ideas in the comments!

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Favorite Activity Style Books to Enjoy as a Family

Our family loves a good reason to snuggle in and huddle up.  I decided to make a list of a bunch of fun books we love to use for some quality together-time around here.  Sometimes this means all 6 of us, and sometimes it's a combination of any 6 of us huddled around one of these activity-type books.  We find ourselves sitting down with one of these at bedtime often, or when we have a spare 5 or 10 minutes to kill.  We also seem to go through phases, and we will be on an ISpy kick (for example) for like a month or two where the kids are constantly asking us to look at an ISpy book, and then all of the sudden those are out and we are quizzing each other on crazy NatGeo facts for the next bit, but they all cycle back into favor over and over again, and at lots of ages and stages of our kids over the years. (We have a range of kids right now from 14 years to 2 years- and it's so awesome to have anything we can all participate in together!)

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1.) I Spy Books - There was a point in our lives that included I Spy time before bed as a family every single night, for months on end.  We have so much fun with these, and love that it's something we can all do together.  We sometimes race to see who can find the item listed first, or we divide and conquer!  Some of our favorites are this, this, or this one, but honestly, they are all great.

2.) Where's Waldo - This goes hand in hand with I Spy.  While we tend to enjoy the I Spy books more, Waldo has been a hit as well!  My husband and I even dressed up as Waldo and Wenda for Halloween last year! We have this one and this one, and my daughter got this one for her birthday which is super cool, and a favorite for sure.

3.)  Would You Rather - We have a wide variety of NatGeo books.  The Would You Rather book we own is super fun, inspires some fun, interesting, and silly conversations, and typically leads to all of us making up our own "would you rather" questions for each other through the rest of the day or week.  

4.)  Weird but True - We also love the other NatGeo books we own, and we have a big ol' stack of these Ultimate Weird But True ones, and have fun flipping through them and reading about crazy facts.  The girls have been receiving these as gifts for quite a few years from their family members, so we have a few others like these 5,000 Ultimate Facts books, but they are all fun and are basically the same concept.  Big hit with our kids at all ages.

5.)  Bedtime Math - This is a fun activity book for kids, with a variety of math story-type problems that are presented in a fun way.  There's different levels presented for each one, to make it more appropriate for different levels of math abilities.  

6.) Magazines - Our kids get a magazine subscription from their great-grandma for Christmas each year.  As their ages have changed, their magazine subscriptions have changed, but they've always been Highlights varieties.  Right now we get the Hello magazines for the littlest one, the regular Highlights for our two middle gals who are in 2nd and 4th grade, and the Muse magazine for our teen.  We also loved the High Five magazine when our kids were more appropriately aged for it, (it falls between Hello and Highlights) and I actually think our toddler is switching to that one any month here when his subscription renews.  I can't gush enough about these.  We read fun articles together, do the picture searches, and the kids love to read them independently as well.

Our youngest child (who is almost 3), was our first to ever received the Hello magazines... and they are AMAZING.  I have told everyone I know about them, including our tutor, who is also a kindergarten teacher, and plans to use them as an "early reader" option for some of her kids.  They are sturdy, plastic-y pages that a baby can't wreck, stitched binding (which is my favorite!), and have such sweet little poems and stories.  The Find It pages work like an I Spy, and my little guy loved them so much we decided to buy him his first Look and Find book for Christmas last year.  We got him a Baby Einstein version, and it's super fun and it's kind of crazy how good he is at these things!  The Hello magazine versions have like 3 items to find in each booklet, so he kind of eased into the bigger books.

Hopefully this little list gives you a few ideas for your own kiddos!  All of these are great as a family, as a duo with a sibling or parent, or independently.  

What type of activity books or otherwise do you like to enjoy as a family?  I'm thinking poetry books would make a good addition for us... any recommendations?