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Completion > Perfection {an honest video review of Chatbooks}

I’m aaaaaalive.  And by that I mean that I am finally taking the time to sit and write one of the many blog posts I’ve been composing in my head for, oh, several months now.  So here’s a quick review of the photo book company Chatbooks:

Since Hadden was born I’ve known that I needed to start collecting and printing our family photos.  I had this intense guilt over all the wonderful photos we had that were just hanging out in The Cloud.  I wanted to do something with them, but I was paralyzed by a need for them to be perfect.  As my reserve of pictures grew so did my guilt.

When I heard about Chatbooks I was skeptical as to whether I’d like it or not.  I still had the idea of an intricate scrapbook (a la Creative Memories) but with no desire or talent to actually MAKE that scrapbook.  So while I was waited for my first Chatbook to arrive, I had some serious reservations.

After several months of trying out their products I can now highly recommend Chatbooks.  The convenience and price simply cannot be beat.  And I’ve been happy with all the items I’ve received.

As I say in the video, I would NOT use Chatbooks for, say, your wedding album.  The quality just isn’t on par with other photo books I’ve made even on the pictures I’ve taken with my “good” camera.  I have liked the books I’ve received enough that I am working on six other books and plan to have all of them printed once I edit the captions and add Caleb’s photos.

I also love the fact that at any time I can go on and order another copy of a book.  If we ever lose them during a move or if we decided to print copies of our family albums for our kids, it will take me just a few clicks before a new album is on its way to our home.



A few additional things:

  1. Chatbooks contacted me in the spring and offered to send me a free book.  However there was no mention or obligation of writing a review in exchange for the product.  I had a frustrating experience at the beginning of working with them and the book that was offered never actually came.  Instead I was given a credit and with that I made my own book (again, .  Even after the rough start, I’ve since fallen in love with this company.  I chose to do a review on my own because I wanted to share it with people.  All opinions are my own.
  2. I am THE WORST on video.  And I know it.  So if it sounds awkward to you, don’t worry: I’m aware. But I wanted to actually show the products and knew that filming would be much faster than trying to describe each thing.
  3. What you can’t see in this picture is Adelaide sitting right next to me in her highchair trying to figure out what the heck I was doing!  I was waiting for her to make some noise, but she was perfectly quiet the whole time.

If you follow this link, you can get your first book FREE!  That is a referral link so if you follow it and make a Series book (rather than a Custom), I receive a small credit to my account.  If you’d prefer not to use the referral link, you can usually find other deals around the web!  Try it out!

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6 Favorite Books for Preschoolers

One of my favorite parts of being a parent is sharing my love of books with my son.  Most days he does a “sit time” where he sits with a pile of books for 30-40 minutes.  Each night we read before bedtime.  And we read together at other times of the day as well.

What my son doesn’t know is that I secretly love his children’s books just as much as I love my “adult” books.  I adore the vivid pictures and the sweet stories.  I choke up at the same lines each time even though I’ve read them a hundred times.  I can recite many of them by heart.

Our favorites include many of the classics like The Very Hungry Caterpiller, Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, and Dear Zoo.  But today I thought I’d highlight a few books aren’t as well known.

Eating the Alphabet by Lois Ehlert

Oh, I love this one!  And, even better, so does Hadden!  You’ll learn fruits and vegetables for each letter of the alphabet accompanied by beautiful illustrations.  This book has made grocery shopping more fun too.  Last week I pointed out a kumquat to Hadden and he said, “That’s in my alphabet book!”  Additionally it’s encouraged him to try a taste of more fruits and vegetables and helped us in our quest to have an adventurous eater.

Tap the Magic Tree by Christie Matheson

I love interactive books and books about nature.  This book hits both notes.  Hadden loves to do all the actions: rub the tree to make it warm, clap your hands to bring the snow, close your eyes and count to ten.  The paintings are lovely and the story is sweet.  It’s a winner!

Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney

The theme of this story is “you must do something to make the world more beautiful”.  I adore that.  I could lie and say that I read this book because I want my son to learn that lesson.  But that’s only half the truth because *I* need to be reminded to make the world a more beautiful place too.  So that’s why we read it so often.  Miss Rumphius goes on fabulous adventures all over the world before she settles down. Then she makes the world more beautiful by planting lupines all over.  The sweet pictures make this book a slam-dunk.

Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters by Barack Obama and illustrated by Loren Long

Are you tired of me mentioning stunning pictures yet?  Pretend that you’re not while I say it again about this one.  The illustrations are so, so lovely.  In the book, the father tells his daughters about different character traits that he sees in them and then links each one to a historical American.  It’s a simple, easy introduction to many of the people who have helped make our country great.  But the end is where I really get choked up and start sounding a bit like a preacher delivering the crux of her message:

 “Have I told you that America is made up of people of every kind?

People of all races, religions, and beliefs.

People from the coastlines and the mountains.

People who have made bright lights shine by sharing their unique gifts

and giving us the courage to lift  one another up, to keep up the fight,

to work and build upon all that is good in our nation.”

Can you see why reading that gets me on a roll?  This book is a beautiful way to give your children a simple introduction to great Americans from Maya Lin and Jackie Robinson to Jane Addams, George Washington and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  I especially love the diversity represented in this book.

Butterfly, Butterfly by Petr Horáček

Hadden loves butterflies, which made this book a favorite in our home pretty quickly.  By searching for a missing butterfly, Lucy discovers many vivid colors in her garden from a green beetle to a red ladybug.  On the last page, (this is Hadden’s favorite part) the butterfly comes back as a pop-up so as you gently open and close the book, it looks like it’s flying.  It’s darling.

Little Yoga by Rebecca Whitford and Martina Selway

This book has several easy yoga poses for little ones.  Between the pictures and the descriptions (“Yoga Baby breathes like a lion” or “Yoga Baby curls up like a sleeping mouse”), it’s super easy for kiddos to follow.  Hadden has fun doing each pose and loves it when we do it with him, although now that I’m in my third trimester I’m less thrilled about doing a couple of these.  This book also features a diverse group of kids, which makes me like it even more.

We are always on the hunt for new, interesting books.  What are some of your favorites?

Six Favorite Books for Preschoolers

Six Favorite BooksforPreschoolers

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2015 Favorites

We had a busy and fun holiday season, but we’re also starting to settle back into our normal routine. Both Caleb and Hadden went back to school yesterday.  Hadden was ELATED to go back to preschool – he’d been asking to go back every day for about a week.  Caleb was, well, a bit less enthusiastic, but I think he’s glad to have some new classes this quarter and get into the swing of things again.

I’ve been doing lots of reflecting over the past month, especially thinking about how our lives changed in 2015.  In that vein, I thought I’d share some of my favorite things from 2015, both frivolous and serious.  Here we go (in no particular order!):

Announcing the new addition coming to our family in 2016

We found out that Baby #2 was on its way in September (which, unsurprisingly, is the same point that my writing/blogging/commenting came to the screeching halt.  Can you say morning sickness?!).  While all three of us are excited about the baby, Hadden is over-the-moon with happiness.  If you happen to ask about the baby, H will solemnly explain that the baby in mama’s belly is too little so it has to stay in until it gets big.  It’s pretty cute.  This week, while discussing baby names, he immediately told me that he wanted the baby to be named: “Mario Choo-Choo Train”.

(No fears.  That’s NOT happening!)

Giving up eye make-up 

This year I’ve stopped wearing eye make-up for all but the special-est occasions.  It’s a small decision, but I’m so happy with it and it feels truer to myself.  This year I also learned a neat trick to heat your eyelash curler with a hairdryer to keep your eyeslashes curled all day.  It is THE BEST.

The Storied Life of A.K. Fikrey

One night in December, Caleb went to see a late showing of Star Wars.  So, after I tucked Hadden in bed, I settled in for a quiet evening, complete with this book and a mug of hot tea.  I adored the book and ended up reading the whole thing that evening.  I’m already looking forward to reading it again.

New Hair Routine

I’ve always been firmly planted in the camp of people who wash their hair everyday.  But after hearing my little sister talk about washing her hair every other day and then giving it a try myself for a couple week, I was an embarrassingly fast convert.  My morning routine is SO much faster now that I don’t have to dry and straighten my hair every morning!  I love that!  My hair adjusted quickly to the change and the shampoo I’ve been using for a little over a year now (Trader Joe’s Tea Tree Tingle) is still working great for me.  I will confess to feeling a bit like an octogenarian when I had to buy a shower cap though!

The Good Wife

Once Caleb returned from deployment and we got settled again, we wanted a new show to watch together.  Enter: The Good Wife.  We.  Love.  It.


I downloaded my first podcast out of sheer desperation this summer.  I had to do some in-depth cleaning and was dying for something new to listen to in order to make my work more interesting.  After that I started listening to podcasts on my walks, then as I ran errands, and even around the house.  It’s taken a bit of trial and error to find podcasts, but now I’m subscribed to about 10 or so that I really love.  Caleb hasn’t been a big podcast listener, but as I’ve shared some of my favorites with him on road trips or around the house, he’s getting hooked too.

(After writing this I realized that the podcast I downloaded this summer was technically my SECOND podcast as I listened to Serial last winter.  But this summer was when I got started on the podcast kick that has kept me occupied for over half of this year)

Surviving (and thriving) through our first Deployment!

Caleb deployed in January last year and came home the very end of July.  We know that more deployments are inevitable in military life and that each one will bring unique challenges, but it feels good to have our first separation under our belts.

Living near my family

In Dayton we’re over three hours away from my family, but it’s the closest that we’ll ever be to them as long as Caleb’s in the Air Force.  We’re really trying to soak that up by spending holidays there, going up for special occasions, or meeting halfway occasionally.  It has been so fun to see Hadden’s relationship with his cousins blossom – he asks to go to their house almost every day!  I’m especially grateful for the way that my family has embraced Caleb and Hadden (and the new baby too!) into our craziness.

Hamilton: The Musical

This was a last minute addition to my favorites list as my sister and brother-in-law introduced us to this musical over the holidays.  But we haven’t stopped listening since we got it, so I think it makes the list!  This is Lin-Manual Miranda’s new musical about the life of Alexander Hamilton.  The music is not what you’d expect from a musical about the founding fathers (think: raps and Destiny’s Child themes!), which makes me love it even more.  The music is captivating and the lyrics are witty and the story is compelling.  By the time you listen to it a few times through, you’ll know more about Hamilton’s life than you ever wanted to know, but you’ll be hooked!  🙂

I can’t write about it without sharing a few favorite songs, although picking favorites is difficult because the entire musical is fantastic!

My Shot (language warning!) – Hamilton sings this near the beginning of the musical when he’s a young man and making connections that will last into his future

You’ll Be Back – King of England singing to the colonies.  This one is fun!

Burn – Hamilton’s wife, Eliza, years into the marriage (If you don’t know the story of their lives, this might include some spoilers).  This song is haunting.

(If you’re listening to this musical around kids, be advised that there are a few explicit songs and some sexual innuendos at times.  I think that all the songs that include explicit words are marked that way though)

Seeing Brandi Carlile in concert

Swoon.  It was fantastic.  And it was made even better by the fact that I got to see it with two of my siblings.  I am absolutely NOT a concert person, but I’m already excited about the next time I see her and the twins in concert.


This app has been such a positive addition to my life this year!  Voxer is a bit hard to explain, but it is sort of like voice texting or using a walkie-talkie that saves your messages until you have time to listen.  Since we moved away from some beloved friends this year, it has been a great way to stay in touch.  Since we are exchanging quick voice messages (instead of texting) it is easier to do when your hands are busy.  Until I started using Voxer, I didn’t realize how much I missed my friends’ voices.  But now I can hear them talking, hear their inflections and we can even let our kiddos talk to each other.  Try it out!  (p.s. it’s easier to use if you find the “tap to talk” option in the settings!”

What has been one of your favorite things from 2015?

2015 Favorites

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