Mama Reader and Her Keiki

Full-time mama. Accidental homemaker. Future librarian.

The Pout-Pout Fish: #mamasbookchallenge2016 Book 1

Exactly one week ago, we celebrated my baby’s first birthday!  I still cannot believe how quickly this last year went by.  I guess “veteran” parents are right when they say time flies with the second child.  My little ‘opihi is typically a happy guy, but not during his birthday week.  Last week he had a cold with some pretty heavy congestion, which turned into a fever that eventually went away, he had two shots at his one year check-up, which led to another high fever, and then after his birthday party, he had hives on his legs and arms!  Actually considering how sick he was, he managed to put on a smile and celebrate at his birthday.

Speaking of birthdays … I took my older boy to pick out a toy and a book for his younger brother’s birthday.  My older boy is three, and he understands that birthdays are about presents, but he does not quite understand that when it’s other people’s birthdays it’s customary to give a present and not expect a present.  He selected the cutest bathtub toy for his brother, the Little Tikes Sparkle Bay Splash Fountain Watery Toy Crab.  It supposedly lights up, spins, and shoots water out of the top.  (We still haven’t tried it yet, so I’m not sure how much water will shoot out of it).  When we got to the bookstore, my older boy kept picking books that he would like, so I showed him the board books area and told him to select from that section since those books were good for his brother.  After examining the books, he finally settled on a book that I had actually shown him, Deborah Diesen’s The Pout-Pout Fish.

the pout pout fish by deborah diesen.JPG

Three year olds tend to judge a book by its cover, so right away my son started turning through the pages to decide if he liked the book.  Besides that, he loved the sound of the title:  “Pout-pout fish!  Pout-pout fish!” he would chant.

The Pout-Pout Fish is about a glum fish who makes the other fish around him feel sad as well, and his friends ask why he has to be so melancholy.  Each time the pout-pout fish responds with the same explanation:  that his pouty lips make him a pout-pout fish.  Is it possible for the pout-pout fish to bring anything but gloom to the fish around him?  The ending of this book is most surprising and sure to put a smile on your face.

This book had my son’s approval from the beginning, but this is one of my younger son’s favorite books as well.  My husband read it to them after they opened presents, and they both sat at attention, looking at the colorful pictures of the underwater world.  I think what is most appealing for young readers, including my one-year old, is the repetition and use of sounds.  The pout-pout fish makes the same “blub, blub, blub” sound to voice is sadness, and, when I read the book with goofy expressions, both my boys laugh.  Last night when I was reading it to my younger son, I think I even heard him trying to make a “buh” sound with his mouth.  Sounds are an important step in language development, so The Pout-Pout Fish is a great way to introduce different sounds to your child within the context of a very funny story.

#mamasbookchallenge 2016 book 1:  The Pout-Pout Fish is a New York Times Bestseller, so we can check “a best-selling book” off our list! 


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#MMDchallenge Book 1: The 13-Story Treehouse

13 story treehouse by Andy Griffiths.JPG

Post-holiday stress plus New Year’s cleaning/organizing plus two sick kids plus a husband recovering from knee surgery.

These events have culminated to make the start of my year a very busy one.  This is my excuse for my slow start to Modern Mrs. Darcy’s 2016 Book Challenge.  Between trying to clean up my sons’ new (and old) toys and clothes and preparing for my second to the last semester of my graduate school career (fingers crossed and cue gasp), I’ve been finding it difficult to find the time to read.

Okay, to be honest, I’ve put off starting the challenge because I got my hands on the most recently published book of the Bliss Bakery series, and I just had to find out what happened to Rosemary Bliss and her family of magical bakers.  And no matter how much I tried to finagle my way into justifying that Kathryn Littlewood’s Bite-Sized Magic fit into one of the challenge categories, I just couldn’t make it work.  Side note:  The Bliss Bakery series is a very tasty read with a strong female protagonist who finds herself in some very sticky situations in which she needs her wits, baking experience, and family to succeed.  I definitely recommend it!

So because I needed a pretty quick read after devouring this last book, I decided to tackle the category “book you can read in a day.”  I had actually found Andy Griffith’s The 39-Story Treehouse first before realizing that was the third book in a series.  Honestly, I completely judged this book by its cover.  I liked the colorfully illustrated map of a creative treehouse on the cover.  Like my youngest sister said, this book is reminiscent of that assignment you did in elementary where the teacher asks you to describe/illustrate your “dream house” and you come up with a treehouse with elevators and slides.  Come on, we’ve all had fun with that assignment, even though my dream house now probably is not in a tree.  I’ve always wanted a treehouse, too, so I was instantly hooked.

The 13-Story Treehouse tells the story of Andy and Terry, who are authors, and the crazy day they have in their treehouse.  They are supposed to have a story prepared for their publisher by the next day, but they keep getting interrupted by scary sea monkeys/monsters, actual monkeys, and a giant gorilla.  And, to be fair, Andy and Terry get quite distracted by the different amenities of the treehouse itself, complete with a marshmallow machine, lemonade fountain, and man-eating sharks.  How can they come up with a book for their publisher when their day is so crazy?

I selected this book because I thought that I could read it in a day.  The 13-Story Treehouse is a hybrid:  It’s a book divided into chapters, and there are short paragraphs, but at the same time there are many illustrations and comic bubbles, so it’s like a graphic novel.  I figured that I could breeze right through the comic parts of the book.  I was wrong.  For one, the book is fairly long at 272 pages.  Secondly, the illustrations are incredibly detailed, and the characters share a lot within their comic bubbles.  Breezing through the illustrations means you could miss a lot of the action and witty sayings.

I can see upper elementary kids really enjoying this book.  It would be a great transition for a child who enjoys graphic novels but wants to start reading more chapter books, and there are many parts of the book that kids would find hilarious.  Furthermore, the book keeps moving, and there really isn’t a dull moment.

One book down!  Eleven more to go!

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2016 Parent-Keiki Book Challenge

It’s that time of year when people stop to reflect on events from the past year and plan for things in the next year.  This year has had its share of momentous events and steep challenges for me and my family, but we’re a lot wiser as a result!  I am grateful to have two little guys running/crawling around the house now, and I am pleased that I am over halfway finished with my graduate program (only two semesters to go!).  I have yet to narrow down my New Year’s “resolutions,” mostly because I am so overwhelmed by what this next year will bring.  However, what I have been really considering are my goals as a reader and as a parent reading to her child.

Personally, as a reader, I have been falling behind.  The work load from my graduate classes and the responsibilities of caring for a newborn and toddler have made it difficult for me to find the time to read for myself.  And, since I’m being really honest, I haven’t even been able to keep up with the readings for my classes!  Here at the beginning of the year, I’m inspired to try harder to read more, and not just the literature I have to read for my classes, but the fun stuff too!  Studies show that kids are more likely to read if they see their parents reading as well.  My sons experience me reading to them often, but they don’t see me reading my own books.  If I am aiming to make them lifelong readers, shouldn’t they see me reading more often, too?

So in that spirit of things, my goal is to read a book a month this year.  I tend to do better when I am challenged, so I went looking for a good book challenge to follow, or at least a list of different categories to select from.  I recently stumbled across Modern Mrs. Darcy’s Book Challenge 2016, and it consists of twelve different categories–one for each month!  I’ve never done a book challenge before, so I’m really excited.  I’m also going to try to keep a better record of the books that I’ve been reading in a book journal.

In considering the job I’ve been doing as a parent reading to her children, I haven’t been doing as good of a job.  When I only had one child, I read to him quite frequently each day.  Most days we’d read after breakfast, before his afternoon nap, and before bed.  Because of our crazy schedules, I only get a chance to read to both my boys right before bed, and this usually means that my older boy has to sit through a short board book and my younger boy has to endure a longer picture book at some point during story time.

While I definitely need to increase the amount of time I’m reading with my sons, I also need to vary the selection.  I end up reading whatever book is on the night stand or within arm’s reach because I’m too hurried.  This means we read the same books over and over again.  I am not saying that this is a bad thing, especially because the repetition is making both my boys more familiar with certain words or sounds.  However, I want to expose my sons to other ideas.  We’ve been in an ocean phase for months now, and while this is a good thing because my older boy can identify marine animals that I didn’t know existed, it can get tiresome to read the same books over and over again.  I guess more for my sake than my son’s sake, I want to start looking for different books for both of us to read.  I’m not saying we’ll stop reading my son’s favorites, I’m just saying that every one to two weeks when we go to the library, we’ll look for a new book–something different from the usual Curious George or fish book.

Before I looked for a book challenge for myself, I went searching for a parent-child book challenge, and I couldn’t find anything, especially for my toddler’s age, so I made up my own list based on some suggestions from the PopSugar Reading Challenge.  There are only 25 books on the list, and I can already think of books that can fit into a few different categories at one time.  This challenge shouldn’t be your sole goal for the year because you should be reading to your child every day.  My hope is that this challenge will serve as motivation for you and your child to read more together, especially if you’re getting bored reading the same books to your children every day.  I also hope this sparks your children’s interests in other genres or topics and serves as a way for you and your children to hunt for different books together at the bookstore or library (hint, hint:  visit your public library!).

Mama Reader & Her Keiki Parent-Child Book Challenge 2016

Side note:  I have never even participated in a book challenge before, let around “create” one, so if I run into problems with this one, I will adjust it as things happen.  I will update the books that I read with the boys on the blog, but I will also be posting pictures on my instagram (@tariariariya) with the hashtag #mamasbookchallenge2016.  If you want to participate, here’s the link to a pdf file 2016_parent_child_book_challenge (I hope it works), and you can share your book selection with the hashtag #mamasbookchallenge2016, too!

Like I said earlier, I hope this will be a fun experience for me and my boys, especially since I’ve never participated in a book challenge myself, and with the spring semester starting in a couple weeks, I’m scared my reading will fall through the cracks again.  Well, I figure I just need to try!  I’m really excited to see what new books I will encounter this year.  Happy reading!

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What my boys got for Christmas, and what they gave me


So what was waiting under the Christmas tree for my boys from me and my husband?  My husband did find this really cool design and drive Lightning McQueen toy for our older boy.  Kids can add or take off different parts of the car and add night-vision goggles or wings to change what kind of Lightning McQueen they want to play with.  Both my boys love it.  For our younger boy, we decided to wait and see what kind of toy he would want.  He basically plays with anything his older brother plays with, so we felt it was redundant to buy a toy for our younger boy.  However, our younger boy got two board books from us, and his older brother got one book about fish.


One thing that I’ve been trying to do more of this year is support the local publishing industry by buying more local books.  Most of the books I gave the boys’ friends are published here in Hawaii.

I picked Wilfred Toki’s Know Your Fishes in Hawai’i for my older boy because we had borrowed that book from the library maybe four or five times this year.  This book really taught him to identify fish, and it highlights fish that are popularly found here in Hawai’i, so he sees them at the aquarium or when we go to the tide pools.  He loves flipping through the book and looking at the real-life images of the different fish, which are accompanied by cartoon pictures that represent the English name of the fish.  For example, milkfish is drawn as a milk carton and fish, so my son has an easy time remembering which one is the milkfish.  If the fish has a Hawaiian name, it is included, and this has been fun for my son (and his dad) to learn the Hawaiian names of the fish as well.

I found Rock-a-Bye Baby in Hawai’i, illustrated by Alvina Kwong, at a Hawaiian bookstore at Ward Center called Na Mea Hawai’i.  I was so excited to find a book about the nursery rhyme set in Hawai’i (and hopefully with a happier ending then “and down will come baby, cradle and all …”) and bought all the copies they had and gave them away as presents before realizing I didn’t have any copy to keep for ourselves!  I promised myself I’d buy another copy when I found it again.

While browsing through Costco one day, I found both Rock-a-Bye Baby in Hawai’i and Hawaiian Ocean Lullaby, by Beth Greenway and illustrated by Jamie Meckel Tablasan, sold together in a set!  I was even more thrilled than the time I had found the first book.  I turned to my husband and told him that we had to buy this for our younger boy.  It was a good move.

My sons didn’t even really open their presents from us until Christmas evening.  By then, they had missed naps and gone to sleep too late the night before, so they were very ready to take a bath, read their books, and close their eyes for the night.  I took my younger boy in my arm, and my older boy got the new books to read.  We laid on the bed together and started reading, first my older son’s favorite, Know Your Fishes in Hawai’i, where he demonstrated that he still remembered many of the fish even though we hadn’t borrowed this book for a long time.

Then we settled in to read Hawaiian Ocean Lullaby.  My older boy loves anything from the ocean, and in this book there are marine animals from jellyfish to humpback whales, so he was entranced by the book.  I like how the book weaves counting in a rhyming way, and the illustrations are amazing!  The pictures are still colorful, but in a muted way because it is nighttime.  What I appreciated about this book was how the book starts and ends with a picture of a baby and mother on a canoe, and my son, who is a mix of different ethnicities, quickly identified with the characters, who looked like him.  My younger son, who was laying on my chest, was very calmly looking at the pictures and he didn’t even try to grab the book.  I think he liked it!

What quickly became all of our favorites (so much so that my son has begged me to start the bedtime story time with this one the last two nights) is Rock-a-Bye Baby in Hawai’i.  I was pretty familiar with the song, and both my boys enjoy listening to music, so I thought I’d sing through the verses.  Each page is a verse and weaves images of a sweet afternoon at the beach.  My favorite picture is of a humpback whale cuddling with her calf.  Halfway through the book, I realized that my younger son’s even breathing had meant he had fallen asleep, and my older boy’s head was nestled on my shoulder.  When we reached the end, I stayed very still and quiet, hoping they had both fallen asleep.  My older boy sat upright suddenly and said loudly, “Let’s read it AGAIN!”  I winced, but my younger boy did not wake up (thankfully).  I think the combination of the calming melody and the sweet lyrics is what makes this book so precious to me and my boys.

As you get older, and definitely when you become a parent, you start getting fewer presents as people start blessing your children with presents.  I am completely fine with that, and I don’t miss presents at all.  What has made this Christmas so special to me, however, is this experience of reading with my children on Christmas night.  It means a lot to me that they enjoyed the books we had selected for them, but this act of reading with them and the peace and love that we shared in this moment is the best gift they could have given to me.

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Give a Book This Christmas!

So it’s the week before Christmas, and my family members are still asking me what they should get my sons for Christmas.  And as a responsible parent, well, first I say, “They don’t really need anything!”  Then after more prodding, I proceed with, “Well, they would really enjoy a book!” to which I get some dubious looks.  To be fair, when they ask my children (or at least the three year old who can talk) what they want for Christmas, my (very funny) older boy responds with, “Presents!”  And then, “TOYS!”

Before I get into the heart of this post, I would like to emphasize that I am NOT against giving toys for Christmas.  Kids do not only want to get clothes or educational toys or even books for Christmas (well, some may), but at my sons’ ages (three and almost one), they don’t need that much clothes and toys often get tossed to the side after a couple of uses.  And even the book lover in me does not only want books for Christmas (although I DO think it would be pretty romantic if my husband gave me an illustrated copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone for Christmas …).  I am merely suggesting that if you’re still looking for a Christmas present for a child (and you’ve only got one week so you’re in a hurry), and that child has sufficient clothes and toys and you don’t want to give a gift card or money, consider giving a book this Christmas.

Here are my five reasons why I think books make great gifts (from the perspective of a mama).

1. Reading is good for children!

I could really go into the research, but I’ll save that for another day.  Take my word for it though.  The research shows that reading, even to young children, helps them with their language development skills, listening skills, potential for imagination, critical thinking skills … etc., etc.  Basically, reading to kids is healthy for them and helps them become better readers as they get older.

2.  Books are great for bonding.

My younger sister was away for college the last couple months, and, while she’s been keeping in touch with my boys on the phone, today was the first time she saw them since she left.  I was surprised at how shy my older boy was, but when she pulled out “presents” for him, he grew a little warmer.  My sister enjoys reading, and she knows how much my son (and I) love reading, as well, so she brought him ocean life books from an aquarium that she had visited.  My son, however, took the books off to the side and was looking through the pictures on his own.  I suggested that my sister read it to him, and a couple minutes later, they were sitting close to each other, turning the pages together.

As kids get older, I’m sure this is not the case, as they can read by themselves; however, research again shows that even some older kids enjoy the read aloud process, especially because it gives them quality time with their parents and loved ones.  If you want a gift that will encourage social interaction for younger children, consider giving them a book that’s just a little more difficult for them to read, so you (or their parent) can spend quality time reading with them.  For both my sons, neither of them is old enough to read, so any book with pictures and some words requires “adult supervision.”

3.  There’s a book for every interest.

So let’s say you’re shopping for a kid (my son) who has a great love for cars, trucks, trains, airplanes, or any moving object, but his parent (me) has made it very clear that he has enough cars, trucks, trains, airplanes, or moving objects already.  What do you do now?  You could walk into any toy store and probably find at least one toy that the child doesn’t have.  But if that kid is anything like my son, he will probably lose interest in the new toy car within a couple of days and play with one of his older cars.

Let’s try walking into a bookstore!  There are tons of books about cars, trucks, trains, airplanes, or moving objects within your reach.  You can pick a fictitious story about The Little Engine that Could or a non-fiction handbook with real-life pictures of different monster trucks.  Whatever the child’s interest may be, there is a book about it.

4.  Books are (fairly) space-efficient.

Now I proceed with this point with great caution.  Children’s books can be large and are shaped very awkwardly at times.  So in this sense, books are not very space-efficient.  But unless you’re giving a child a copy of Gone With the Wind, most children’s books are short, and thus, will lay pretty flat.  If the child does not have a huge library of books, then finding a home for a flat book is much easier than making space for a toy parking garage and the dozen accompanying cars (which we were considering getting for our older son but could not find the space for).  The main reason why I don’t want more toys for my sons is because I do not have the space to house them and I do not have the energy to keep picking them up (but this is a separate issue).

Books are not very space efficient if you already have too many books for the space you’re living in.  After recently cleaning up my sons’ bookshelf, that’s the situation we’re in.  For families that have too many books, if there is such a thing, it might seem redundant to give another book.  But, if you take a look at my bookshelf, the solution is just finding another way to restack my books!

5.  By buying books, you’re supporting the book industry!

There were so many bookstores when I grew up.  I would spend hours browsing books while my mom would run errands at the mall.  Fast forward a couple of decades and here in Hawaii, there is ONE major bookstore in the entire state:  a Barnes and Noble at Ala Moana Shopping Center.  There is a handful of independent and used bookstores (which I feverishly try to support, but cannot always afford) in Hawaii, and I’ve been very pleased with the variety of books that the bigger warehouse stores like Sam’s Club and Costco are carrying for cheaper prices.  However, the trend is that bookstores and libraries are finding themselves in peril, and even though Amazon can deliver books (and at often good prices as well), children need to be able to touch and browse books to develop a relationship with reading.  It just does not have the same effect to look at book covers and preview samples of the book online.  Children need to see books in bookstores and libraries.  By buying books, you’re supporting the writers, illustrators, and publishers who are working to keep print books in children’s hands.

So if you’re like me, and only finished with a very small part of your Christmas list, consider popping into the bookstore to find some gifts.  You may just be a little surprised at what you’ll find.

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A Future Librarian’s (and Mom’s) Revelation about Early Childhood Literacy

So I havenʻt been writing for awhile because I’ve been knee-waist-elbow-chin deep in my graduate school classes.  This semester was the first time I went back to school full-time since I had my second son, and it was my second most difficult semester of school ever.  This semester was only a little less overwhelming than my last semester of my undergraduate studies when I was working on my student teaching requirement.  That was very overwhelming and unpredictable.  That was back when I only had ME to worry about.  This semester was overwhelming in a whole different way; every day I was thinking about a million things and trying to prioritize and organize accordingly.  There was my husband and his work schedule, my kids and getting them to mommy-keiki preschool in the mornings then shuttling them off to my grandma’s while I was in class, then looking for parking before rushing off to class, then trying to pay attention during class, then speeding off to pick up the kids, then figuring out what to feed everybody, shopping for groceries, washing/folding the laundry, cleaning up the house, celebrating birthdays, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and now … Christmas, then writing papers, creating posters, and completing (take-home) quizzes.  As you can see, it was a busy couple of months.

However, this semester has been a valuable learning experience for me.  I had some amazing professors, and I proved to myself that I could survive the workload in school and manage my family.  In one of my classes, about how librarians engage with the community, as a final project, I was required to pick an area of community engagement and research it.  I’ll be honest:  I spent most of the semester trying to figure out what area I wanted to research.  Eventually, as I perused the American Library Association website, I came to a short paragraph about Early Childhood Literacy, which focuses on children from ages 0-5.  Now, obviously, libraries are charged with the responsibility to help people of all ages improve their literacy skills.  As a mother, I never really considered the library’s impact on the youngest audience.  The basis of my research was pretty simple:  In order for children to become successful readers, they need to be read to from a young age (some may argue, from birth!).  To make that happen for all children is not so simple.  Eventually, I picked this area to research, and surprisingly (but not really that surprisingly), I found myself excited about Early Childhood Literacy.  A little too excited.  Needless to say, I got an A for that project.

So I decided to turn to my blog, which I’m not really sure how many people read, or even how many of the readers are parents or librarians.  I figure that this will be a productive way to share my enthusiasm for Early Childhood Literacy.  My posts, which have been few and far between but hopefully more consistent now, will still share some of my favorite foods, but will primarily focus on Early Childhood Literacy, books, and reading.  Please be patient with me because I am REALLY excited!

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The Four Things I Learned about Online Shopping from Amazon Prime Day

My heart has finally recovered enough for me to talk about this rationally.  It has been two days since Amazon Prime Day, the mid-year, Black Friday-like online sale for Amazon’s Prime members (which we happily have membership).  Surrounding the day was a lot of hype, as Amazon boasted that Prime Day would have deals better than Black Friday, which is one of my favorite holidays.

Ironically, Baby Boy is finally about to embark on the great adventure of starting solids.  He just turned six months, and his pediatrician gave me a surprised, “I thought you would have already had him eating solids” at his doctor visit on Wednesday.  With Lil Reader, I had been very careful what we fed him at first.  Everything was rice cereal, oatmeal, and fruits.  We kind of fell off the wagon when I got tired from being pregnant and having a new baby.  This time (and after reading French Kids Eat Everything), I am determined to make sure Baby eats more vegetables (along with fruits and whole grains) and the rest of family will have to follow suit.  A couple months ago, my friend posted a picture of her baby’s pureed foods in these cute ice tray looking containers.  When I asked her about it, she raved about how easy it was to freeze and defrost food:  “You can just pluck out one or two pieces at a time … so easy!”  She told me she found the Mumi and Bubi freezer trays on Amazon.  Fast forward to Tuesday, when I decided to check it out and see how much these trays cost:  $29.99!  What?!  I really wanted the whole process to be easier for freezing and thawing food so I was considering getting it.  With Prime Day the next day, I decided to wait.

Because we live in Hawaii, Prime Day started at 9 pm.  My husband and I were looking online for deals (I started fifteen minutes late because I had fallen asleep with my little guys), and it was incredibly overwhelming.  I chastised my husband for not waking me sooner so I could have bought a Ju-Ju-Be diaper bag (honestly, it would still be over $100 and I couldn’t spend that kind of money).  There didn’t seem to be much on sale, and we were slowly browsing through things when we found a pack of Sharpie pens–I think 12 for $10, and, after discussing it as the pen set when on sale, decided to buy it … and didn’t even end up on the wait list!  That’s when we realized that this wasn’t going to be a relaxing evening of eating an ice cream cone with one hand and perusing the items with the other hand.  This was going to be a two-handed, eyes focused on the screen at all times battle.  Something in me snapped when I didn’t get the Sharpie pens (which I didn’t even need or really really want).  I needed to buy something.  I needed to win.

An hour later I found a Little People farm set for my boys.  Our house is filled with cars, trucks, trains, and planes of various sizes, but I had seen Lil Reader playing with a dollhouse at the toy store.  He had the animals play and talk with each other as they walked around the house and jumped out of the windows.  I knew he would enjoy a toy that promoted imagination like the Animal Farm.  We watched the time tick down, and as the website refreshed, my husband clicked on the item and we got it!  It was like winning–winning what, I have no idea because we still had to pay $20 to get the “prize.”  It was still a lot of fun: the suspense, the thrill of the chase, the victory!  By the end of Prime Day, we attempted to buy seven more items, and actually bought three of them.  That is how difficult this online shopping business is.

Now back to my freezer trays … I told myself if Baby woke up early in the morning, I would get up with him, feed him, and check out the sales.  Baby woke up around 4:30 am (yay), and I nursed him back to sleep.  I picked up my iPad and realized the number of items on sale had shot up; there were now hundreds of pages of stuff.  As I quickly went through the lists, I realized that some items had just gone on sale.  As I reached page 123 of 124, I saw the Mumi and Bubi freezer trays, and I froze!  Was this it?  What if it wasn’t?  Should I buy it?  Honestly the whole process took ten seconds, but in those ten seconds it took me to find my husband, point it out, and confirm that this was the product I was looking for, it had already sold out … and I was 110 on the wait list.  My odds of getting the freezer trays?  Poor.

I was pretty disappointed.  Devastated might be a better word.  I couldn’t go back to sleep as I moaned to my husband of how close I was to saving $15 on the one thing–the ONE thing I wanted from Amazon!  I couldn’t believe it.

Would I do Amazon Prime Day again?  Yes, I totally would if they would release a list of all the possible items they would have on sale!  I know, I know, that’s not going to happen.  That would make things much too easy.  By keeping consumers in the dark about what is actually going to be on sale in those 24 hours, people have to check the website constantly to see what they can get.  It’s kind of like shopping at Costco or Sam’s Club.  You go in for five things, but in searching for those five things, you walk out with five more things.  If I knew exactly what would have been on sale on Prime Day, I would only look for those things and nothing else (or so I tell myself).

Amazon Prime Day was probably not for everybody, and many people I talked to said that they didn’t see anything that they liked.  I think this was best for parents because there was a ton of baby products, toys, and home items on sale.  For some reason there were a lot of cell phone cases and watches on sale as well.

So here are the four things that I learned about online shopping from Prime Day:

1.  Find someone to help you.
My husband and I make a great team.  Together we were covered more ground by searching more of the products than we would have alone.  If it was something we really wanted to get, we both could try to buy it when it went on sale.  I’d like to think our odds of getting something doubled just by the two of us working together.

2.  Use filters to help you find stuff you’re most interested in buying.
Part of the difficulty of online shopping at a place like Amazon is the lack of a system.  There were two categories:  the things already on sale and the “upcoming” items that would be on sale soon.  Interestingly, some of the items that were already on sale were in the upcoming items.  And some of the items that were sold out kept coming up in the “upcoming” items.  This made searching through the pages very difficult and cumbersome.

Eventually, I just started searching the categories that I thought I’d find stuff that we’d be most interested in, like the baby section, women’s fashion, toys/games, and home/office.  This made searching a little easier because it eliminated the things I did not want to buy, like the hundreds of different cell phone cases available.

3.  Check every so often–maybe every half hour.
The items went on sale every half hour, but it felt like I was checking my Amazon app all day long.  It is true that items would appear at all times that would go on sale anywhere from a half hour to several hours from then.  This makes things stressful if you don’t want to miss anything.  Not much will change every single minute of the day; I eventually figured out checking two to three times an hour at most would do the trick.  I figured that out in the early afternoon after my eyes had dried out.

4.  Just click the button!
A second’s hesitation can mean you go from getting an item to being 110 on the wait list.  If you see something on sale that you might want, just get it in your cart.  You don’t have to buy it.  You can always remove it from your cart, and I think you have fifteen minutes to mull it over before Amazon pulls it out of your cart and you lose the deal.  Just click the button.  Don’t think about how much it costs; in fact, the sale price pops up the moment it goes on sale so you won’t be able to think about the cost before it gets scooped up by everyone else.  Just click the button.

I feel like there’s still a lot more that I need to learn about online shopping.  I guess I just need to try again on Black Friday!

Update #1:  When writing this entry I wanted to link to the Mumi and Bubi freezer trays, so I went on Amazon to find it, and discovered that it was now $25, which is $10 off the regular price and only $5 more than the price on Prime Day.  I am feeling much happier about online shopping now!

Update #2:  Right as we were getting the boys into bed, we heard a knock.  It was the UPS guy with two of our items already:  the Amazon wipes and the Fisher Price farm set!  I can’t believe how quickly such a big box made it to Hawaii!  Thanks, Amazon!

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The Perfect First-Time Quinoa Recipe: Mexican Quinoa

mexican quinoa finishedThis past week was a little bit of a disaster for me, in terms of cooking.  I thought I had everything planned out, and I had all the right ingredients.  I double-checked the recipes.  But unfortunately, the Spanish rice and slow-cooker chicken fajitas that I tried to make for my sister’s birthday did NOT come together the way i wanted it to.  It just lacked a lot of flavor, which sometimes happens with slow-cooker foods.  Also, I had no idea that chili powder was different from chili seasoning; that would have made all the difference with my rice cooker Spanish rice.

I needed a win.  A win in the kitchen.  I just felt restless, though, and I had no idea what I wanted to cook.  I knew I needed something kind of Mexican based, since I had all that bland chicken fajita left.  I logged onto Pinterest for inspiration, and I wandered onto Damn Delicious.  I feel like I pretty much have loved everything on this blog.  There are healthy recipes, not-so healthy recipes, Asian-inspired dishes (which is a big deal if you’re from Hawaii), vegetarian meals, slow-cooker options, and, my personal favorite, one pot wonders (which is why I’ve started calling these magical, cut-down-on-time-washing-dishes type meals).  I found a recipe for Mexican quinoa, and since I had a whole bag of quinoa from Sam’s Club, I thought I would give it a try.  I had already lost twice in one week, what was one more loss?
quinoa from sams clubMy biggest concern about this dish was whether my son and husband would like quinoa.  Apparently it’s a heavily debated food:  Some people love it, and others don’t quite enjoy it so much.  I’ve had quinoa once at a party in a salad, and it kind of reminded me of a mix between orzo and couscous, something gritty and chewy.  I enjoyed it, and I’ve heard it is healthy, so I bought a huge bag to force me to use quinoa and introduce it into our diets.

I’m sure glad that I did because both my son and my husband gave the Mexican quinoa a big thumbs up!  The Mexican quinoa was flavorful, and I think it reminded them of a grainier brown rice.  I’m relieved because this was a pretty easy dish to make, and if you’re unsure how you feel about cooking quinoa, this is a great recipe to start with.  The quinoa is cooked directly into the dish, and it’s a one pot wonder meal!  The only cutting I did was the garlic, and I needed to make sure that I stirred the quinoa so it wouldn’t burn.  Oh, and because I didn’t have a lid for my cast-iron skillet, I had to improvise by covering it with a cookie sheet!

spanish quinoa before

I adapted the recipe from Damn Delicious.  Click here for the original recipe.  Chungah’s recipe called for jalapeños and fire-roasted diced tomatoes, which I didn’t have.  These flavorful ingredients would have made the quinoa even tastier.  I’m wondering if Rotel could be used as a substitute for the tomatoes.

spanish quinoa finished

Mexican Quinoa

Prep time:  5 min.  
Cook time:  25-30 min.
Serves 4 people

Olive oil
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1 c. uncooked quinoa
1 c. chicken broth
1 15 oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 can corn, drained
1 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. cumin
Salt and ground pepper to taste

1.  Heat oil in skillet.  Add minced garlic and let cook for 1-2 minutes.
2.  Add the quinoa, chicken broth, black beans, diced tomatoes, and corn.
3.  Next add the spices.  Mix well.
4.  Bring the pot to a boil, then lower heat to a simmer.  Cover and let cook for 20 minutes.
5.  When finished, fluff the quinoa.  You can serve with avocados or cheese.

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Late Father’s Day Post: My Favorite Fictitious Fathers

I will admit that there have been very few books that I’ve read where I’ve even noticed the father in the books.  My favorite series while I was growing up was The Boxcar Children, and the main characters were orphans and lived with their grandfather. In the other books that I read, most of the characters wrote about their relationship with their mothers.  Now that I’m older and a parent (who is married to a man who happens to be an amazing father to my boys), I’ve been more cognizant of the role fathers play in my favorite books.  I’ll admit, I had to think hard to think of more than one favorite fictitious father, but these three literary dads are so memorable.

So you already know of my incredible love affair with To Kill a Mockingbird (click here to see my post on Scout Finch).  I actually had the teeniest, tiniest … okay, very obvious crush on Atticus Finch, Scout’s dad.  Atticus is so patient and gentle.  He is brave and intelligent.  He says the wisest things, and I’ve always imagined him to speak in a soft, low voice.  See?  I thought it was a crush.  (Ironically Atticus is almost the same number of years older than his wife as my husband is to me.)  As I thought about it, though, I realized I admired Atticus for his fathering skills, and not as a love interest.  Above all else, I respect Atticus Finch.

I do not know how to start describing why I think Atticus is such an amazing father.  It helps that the novel is written from Scout’s perspective, and Scout obviously loves and respects her father.  Atticus is probably best known as the white lawyer who defends Tom Robinson, a black man accused of raping a white woman.  This obviously shows his bravery, as defending a black man in 1930’s America was not accepted.

I, however, remember Atticus’s patience when dealing with the hot-headed Jem and curious (and also hot-headed) Scout.  He uses words to discipline his children, and teach them a better way.  When Scout belittles poor Walter Cunningham for pouring syrup all over his food, Atticus tells her, “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view … until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”  Atticus is teaching his children how to have empathy!  As a parent of a toddler and a newborn, I cannot even imagine how difficult that task will be.

My favorite Atticus quotation is about courage:  “It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what.  You rarely win, but sometimes you do.”  Everyone needs to hear this.  Atticus is a man who exemplifies courage, asks his children to do the same, and walks them through it.  He is absolutely my favorite fictitious father.

the descendants kaui hart hemmings

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It’s been a long time since I’ve read Kaui Hart Hemmings’s The Descendants.  I picked it up because it was a book about Hawaii, and the movie had just come out.  The local people were saying that this was a fairly accurate film based in Hawaii, and George Clooney was starring in the movie, so I thought it was worth a shot.

Matthew King is the main character, and he has been born and raised in Hawaii; he is hapa, which means he is part Caucasian and part Hawaiian.  Because of his ancestry, Matt is pretty successful financially:  He lives in a nice home, and he has a good business.  However, his wife is currently laying in a coma, and she will be taken off life support soon.  He needs to help his daughters and himself through this difficult, emotional time.  To make things more difficult, his older daughter is a recovering drug addict, and they have recently discovered that their mother had been having an affair.

I think I connected with this book because it was so similar to some events in my own life, and I remember Matthew King, not as a perfect father, but as a father who is trying his best.  In a split second, he has become the sole caretaker of two girls who are about to lose their mother forever.  The relationship between the girls and their mother hadn’t been perfect either, and Matthew does his best to help prepare their daughters for their mother’s impending death.

There is one moment in the book that made me weep.  I cannot remember the specifics, but Matt’s younger daughter had done everything she could to stay away from her mother in the hospital.  The time was coming to take her off life support, and Matt was trying to get his daughter to say something to her mother, but she kept refusing.  He finally has his daughter hold her mother’s hand, and even though his daughter fights to get away, she eventually calms down, and, realizing that she is losing her mother, she begins weeping.  Her father holds her close and lets her grieve.  It is a powerful moment, and it captures a moment no parent wants to live through, but Matthew King somehow manages the strength to help his daughter say good-bye to her mother.  Matthew has his flaws, and most of the time, I felt he was bewildered with everything happening, but in this moment as a father, he pulls on incredible strength for his daughter.

the book thief markus zusak

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The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak, is such a beautifully written novel.  Everything about it, from the plot to the characters to the very way the novel is written (and at points illustrated), is unforgettable.  The novel focuses on Liesel, a foster child living in Germany during World War II.  Life in Germany at that time is scary, even though Liesel doesn’t quite understand it all yet, and her hunger for words helps her escape many of the dark moments in her life.

Liesel’s foster father Hans Hubermann does his best to help her during this time.  He teaches Liesel to read after the other kids tease her at school.  When Liesel is plagued with nightmares, Hans sleeps in the chair next to her bed all night until she stops having nightmares.

Like Atticus, Hans demonstrates great bravery by doing the unpopular thing in Nazi Germany, which is keeping a Jewish man, Max, hidden in his basement.  Hans’s wife often scolds him for being lazy and playing his accordion all the time, or overly generous for painting people’s houses for nearly nothing, but she, like the reader, will admire the way Hans stands up to everyone else and tries to help the Jewish people who are forced to walk throughout the town.  While this action puts him and his family in danger, Hans refuses to assimilate into the Nazi way of thinking/

In the process of helping the Jewish man in his basement, Hans teaches Liesel compassion.  She also refuses to ally herself with Nazi Germany, and, even though this puts her in great danger as well, Liesel befriends Max.

Hans Hubermann is a quiet man, but he is a good listener, and he is quick to help others, even complete strangers at the risk of his own life.  As the reader, I admire that, but it is evident, through Liesel’s actions, that Liesel also loves and respects Hans as well.

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Summer #bookaday Book 16: #AlohaFriday Fun at the Alphabet Hukilau

alphabet hukilau in hawaiiHappy Aloha Friday!  I cannot tell you how glad I am it is the weekend.  I’ve got so much work to do, but, nope, I’m sitting here, watching reruns of Modern Family (I swear I’ve watched this one particular episode a dozen times), trying to avoid all the work I have to do.

Before I return to the TV, I want to introduce you all to Alphabet Hukilau in Hawai’i by Vera Arita and illustrated by Mariko Merritt.  I found this book at the library, and I was excited because this book was set in Hawai’i, and it was all about alphabets and sea life.  A hukilau describes the way Hawaiians would cast out a huge net, so big that lots of people would have to haul it back in.  In this book, we are going to a hukilau, but instead of catching any fish, we just catch letters!  In the process of casting out our net, we are introduced to many of the sea creatures in Hawaii.

Both my boys enjoy this book.  My younger son loves this book because the colors are bright and the words rhyme (even though some of the rhyming isn’t exact).  My older boy loves the ending when he counts “1, 2, 3…” to pull in the net.  I was really surprised that my younger boy actually spends the most time looking at the epilogue where there is an alphabetized list of all the creatures highlighted in the book.  Each animal is accompanied by its picture (a real one that looks like it came straight from a science book) and a brief description.  I love that my sons are learning their alphabets, more specific names for sea creatures (not just fish, but angelfish, frogfish, lionfish, and goatfish, to name a few), and even the Hawaiian names for the sea turtle (honu) and dolphin (nai’a).

I remember a couple weeks ago saying how difficult it is to find pictures books set in Hawaii for my boys.  This has become a new favorite in our home.

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