Ordinary Joy Mama Review

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To read my review of this 3-in-1 cover from The Undercover Baby (and for a discount code and giveaway opportunity) head over to www.ordinaryjoymama.wordpress.com. I’ve set this blog up to work in conjunction with my Instagram account and keep reviews, etc. separate from my more personal updates here. :)

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{Mommy Journal} Our Current Top Five Picture Books

Both our moms taught us to LOVE books, so Andrew and I were determined to make them a big part of our children’s lives. :) We are so thrilled that our little Monkey absolutely adores being read to. I thought I would share some of our current favorites that may be a little more obscure. It’s hard to narrow it down, but here are our current Top Five. These are affiliate links to Amazon. :)

All the Places to Love by Patricia McLachlan

Brought to you by the author of Sarah, Plain and Tall! This was a favorite of mine growing up, and it just so happens that the little boy’s name is Eli, so now it is even more dear to me! The paintings in this book are truly stunning and the nostalgic tone with which it is written might bring a tear to your eye. It does to mine, but I’m not even two months postpartum. ;) Caleb is completely enraptured by the pictures!

 

Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel by Virginia Lee Burton

This author has several cute books, and this is Andrew’s and Caleb’s favorite. The fun plot and quirky illustrations make it a hit, especially for boys!

The Relatives Came by Cynthia Rylant

This title is just plain cute and heart-warming. Caleb loves to point out silly things in the peculiar illustrations, and I enjoy reading it in exactly the way that the narrator did when we had it on tape growing up. ;)

Lentil by Robert McCloskey

Robert McCloskey is one of my all-time favorite authors, so be sure to check out his many other picture and chapter books! His black-and-white drawings are full of sweet details and great facial expressions. Lentil is Caleb’s favorite of our McCloskey collection: the story of a little boy who can’t pucker his lips to whistle, but can play a harmonica…and how that skill saves the day!

 

Paddington by Michael Bond

I love this picture book version of one of my favorite chapter book characters, and Caleb requests it often. The pictures are darling and it is well-written, so it’s fun for a grownup to read. Sometimes I practice my poor British accent for added interest. ;)

Next on my list to purchase is Nine for California...yet another favorite from my childhood! What’s the current favorite picture book in your home?

The Best Two-Player Games

91sn9inwqbl-_sl1500_This post contains affiliate links to Amazon. :) 

Andrew and I are crazy about games. It’s probably our favorite thing to do when we have a free evening and Caleb is down for the night. Over the years we have collected a number of tried-and-true games that are really fun and successful with just two players. Usually this means they are games that are designed for two players. We find that most 2-4 or 2-6 player games technically work with two, but aren’t all that fun. That is not the case for these games! I am listing them in order of my favorites, which would differ slightly from Andrew’s order. :)

Jaipur

This game reminds me a little bit of Dominion, another game I love, but one that isn’t so fun with two people. Jaipur is played in three rounds that take approximately 10 minutes each to complete. Every turn presents multiple strategy options, and my favorite thing about this buying and selling game is that you really can’t tell until the end of each round who will come out on top! I’d say it took us about 25-30 minutes to master the rules the first time. We’ve played it on the ferry, in coffee shops, and at home…it’s always a winner.

Patchwork

Patchwork is so different from your mainstream board and card games. It’s fast and easy to learn (a huge plus for me because I hate rule books), and with a variety of options each turn, the strategy element is definitely there, with just a bit of chance. I enjoy the fun element of piecing together your “quilt” in a strategic way.

Lost Cities

Speaking of easy rules, Lost Cities is incredibly fast to learn but it’s surprisingly fun to play–over and over again. It is designed to be played in three rounds, and the scores from the three are added up at the end. This card game falls into the category of chance more than strategy, so it’s surprising that I love it so much, but we find ourselves returning to it over and over. It requires little brain power, so it’s great on lazy nights when you just want to chill.

Empire Builder

Okay, I absolutely LOVE LOVE LOVE this game. Andrew has only played it once with me, so I’m not sure how much we’ll break it out together, but I play it with my brothers whenever I am back home. It takes a good hour to learn and 1-2 hours to play with 2-3 people, but it is seriously the best! You have to think ahead and plan out your turns, work efficiently and frugally, and pace your spending carefully. Definitely a fun one for Christmas break or a late game night with board game geeks…but not for your casual board gamer. :)

Pandemic

Designed for 2-4 players, Pandemic is fun with more but still really great with just two. It’s cooperative, so if you’re looking for an option that doesn’t make you butt heads, this is a good one. ;) I love the unique aspect of playing together against the game to eradicate diseases across the globe. It does take a little while to learn the rules at first, as it’s more complicated than the first three games I listed, but it’s worth the time you put in at the beginning!

Gobblet

A lot more fun than Checkers but less brain-intensive than Chess, this is a fun, old-fashioned-feeling game for two. We learned it on our one-year anniversary getaway and I still enjoy it whenever we pull it out, which is probably only a few times a year now. The rules are insanely simple, so it’s good for the people in your life who don’t like to read rule books.

Set Cubed

If you’ve played the card game version of Set, this is similar, but turn-based…none of that frantic, crazy yelling and grabbing for sets. I.e. it’s relaxing. It can be played by up to four people but is truly just as fun with two, an unusual characteristic that sets it apart.

Monopoly Deal

I’ll be honest, I’m not a huge fan of this game anymore, I burned myself out on it…but because Andrew still loves it so much, I had to include it. If you love Monopoly but don’t have the patience for hours of play time, this is a fun alternative that requires no setup and can be played in minutes. It’s just a pack of cards, so it’s easy to travel with, too!

I’d love to hear from you! I’m always on the hunt for good two-player games. Please share your favorites in the comments!

{Reading Report} Children’s Christmas Stories

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If you don’t read Christmas picture (or chapter) books as a family, I encourage you to begin the tradition! Many of my fondest memories from December are those of my mom and dad reading Christmas stories aloud to me and my brothers. And now it is one of my favorite things about having a toddler at Christmastime, although we very much need to start building our Christmas book library! =)

I’d like to introduce you to my favorite children’s Christmas books...

When I Celebrate His Birthday

whenicelebrateThis is a simple board book that I grew up on, and my mom was so thoughtful to order one for Caleb this year! It’s been one of his favorites, he brings it to me often. There’s not much to it, but a little girl shares about how her family celebrates Jesus’ birthday every year at Christmas time, and I love the sweet illustrations.

Christmas at Rumpole Mansion

rumpolini-001It appears to be out of print, which is a shame, because I remember this book the most fondly of them all! With a little prompting, I still have it memorized almost word-for-word to this day. It’s the story of a mouse family who learns the valuable lesson, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” at Christmas time. The illustrations of life in a cozy mouse home are absolutely captivating to little ones. Both my parents read it aloud multiple times every year and I can’t wait to do the same for our kiddos one day!

The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey

The old widower woodcarver is in no mood for making friends. But when a kind widow and her vivacious young son hire him to recreate their precious Nativity set in time for Christmas, gloomy Mr. Toomey’s heart begins to soften and new relationships are on the brink of forming. The paintings in this book are absolutely gorgeous and the narration of the audio book is excellent!

The Legend of the Candy Cane

9780310730125I’m disappointed that this book comes “newly illustrated”, as it would be impossible to improve on the vibrantly detailed paintings in the original. However, the message still stands. It’s about the meaning behind the candy cane–a classic piece of Christmas that tells the story of Jesus’ birth and sacrifice on the cross. This book would make the perfect gift for an unsaved family or for use as an evangelism tool in your own home.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas!

Okay, so you’re probably all too familiar with this classic from Dr. Seuss. But I had to include it because the Christmas season was never complete without my dad reading it aloud to us multiple times. It’s a silly story, but I’m forever endeared to it. The rhyming is catchy and the original animated movie is great, too. =)

Happy Birthday, Jesus!

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I love this board book, which was introduced to me this spring by my sister-in-law Shelby. It’s a well-rhymed poem (not all poetic children’s books actually flow the way they should!) and the vibrant pictures catch Caleb’s eye every time. =)

Miracle in a Shoe Box: A Christmas Gift of Wonder

51XjPSeeL7L._SL500_SL160_This fictional account of two children who are blessed by Samaritan Purse’s shoe box ministry brings good perspective to the holiday season. We are so richly blessed in America, while so many people around the world are living in turmoil and have nothing material to enjoy. I loved this story growing up, and it inspired our family to participate in the shoe box project at least one year that I recall. Reading Miracle in a Shoe Box made picturing the children who would receive our gift that much more special.