Monday Review – Hello Baby book

Welcome back for another Monday review! This week we are talking about baby books. I love the classic pen and paper method for keeping memories, so when I got pregnant I knew I wanted an actual baby book. However, I saw so many that had pages on pages of information to fill out, ones that were daily, weekly, etc, ones that were cheesy, ones that were over-the-top…you get the idea. Life with a baby is chaotic enough (part of the reason most baby books end up half empty), and, I wanted to find a physical book that I would actually use.

The answer: say hello to the Hello Baby memory book from Sticky Bellies!

Hello baby

What I like about it: It is short, sweet, and to the point. There is an intro page, some blank memory pages for hospital/birth memorabilia, birth story page, photo pages, etc. The milestone pages are done by month, and each one has space for one photo and three boxes to fill in for the baby – What You Love, What You Don’t Love, and I Never Want To Forget…super fast and easy. It takes me 5 minutes per month to fill out the page. The pages are also coordinated with well baby checkups, so there is height and weight on the months that you go to the pediatrician, and then fun stats on other months like sleeping, foods, teeth, etc.

Favorite Elements:

  • It tracks birth through five, with two page updates for each year starting at age 1.
  • The book captures the highlights without being overwhelming – I can even see doing one for each of my kids because it is so simple!
  • The pages are made of high quality cardstock. This may be weird, but I notice paper texture and weight, and appreciate when a memory book like this one is created with durable paper.
  • I love supporting small businesses, and this is a great one!

Cost: $29.99, comes in two color schemes

Where you can get it: stickybellies.com (there are tons of great products besides the memory books!)

Summary: Baby books are not for everyone, but if you like them, definitely check out the Hello Baby book. Our son is only 10 months old, and I already love looking through his book to see how much he has grown and changed. This is keepsake quality, and a book we will treasure for many years to come!

Monday Review – I Dream of You

In my first 10 months of motherhood I have discovered many new companies and products that have been so helpful and awesome, so I have decided to start a weekly review post where I share one of my finds! These are not ads; I am not getting paid by anyone to share this information, they are simply my reviews on items I have found and want you to know about. They will not always be baby or kid related either, so these reviews are for everyone! Come back each Monday for a new item, and if you have found something awesome that makes life easier/better, please share it with me. I would love to post guest reviews so we can all learn and share together!

First up: I Dream of You, by JJ Heller

JJ Heller - I dream of you

It is no secret that JJ Heller is one of my favorite music artists. Her soft voice, melodic sound and beautiful writing draw you in and make your day better. So, when I learned that she was creating a lullaby cd, it was the first thing that went on our baby registry and one of my favorite things we received.

We started playing it while I was still pregnant, and had it playing in the delivery room as our son was born. What I did not realize at the time is that it is magic. But I know that now. Two weeks after our baby was born he was diagnosed with a congenital heart condition called Tetralogy of Fallot. Because of this condition, it was vital that we keep him as calm as possible until his surgery to repair the hole in his heart.

So, anytime he started getting too riled up, we turned on I Dream of You. And like magic, he calmed instantly. Every time. It worked before his surgery, it worked in the hospital when he started getting agitated with all the cords and wires, and it still works on car trips and when he wakes up in the night crying. It is amazing how quickly it calms him down, and I recommend it to anyone having a baby.

What I like about it: It is not annoying. So many lullaby songs are cheesy and boring. These songs are beautiful, written for both parents and baby. The songs provide encouragement on nights that seem to go on forever, and give hope to weary moms and dads. They remind you that this baby is a gift, and that everything is going to be ok. It is an album that I can listen to over and over – we’ve had it going for ten months so far and I am not tired of it yet.

Favorite tracks:

  • The Sun will Rise
  • Big World, Baby
  • I Get to Be the One

Cost: $8.99, or free to stream on some sites

Where you can get it:  iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, or her website jjheller.com.

Summary: Get it. If you are having a baby, you will not regret it. If you have a baby in the hospital, definitely get it. I wish every NICU and PICU in the world could have a copy of it to play for the babies. It makes that much of a difference.

Books for the New Year: Fiction

The start of a new year calls for a new list of books! Over the past few months I have managed to fit in some good reading time, filled with a wide variety of both fiction and non-fiction. Since there are so many to share, I am breaking them up into two lists. Here are recommendations and short synopses of some of the fiction books I have read over the past few months.

 

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

Guernsey

This was my favorite read from 2013, and I plan on reading it again soon. The characters in this story are fun, genuine, and quirky, and from the first page they became like dear friends. It is written as a series of letters from Julia, the main character, to her publisher, his sister, and a group of men and women on the island of Guernsey off the coast of Britain. She is in London working on a story based on the Literary Society this group started during World War II, and in the process she grows to love them as her family. If you read only one work of fiction this year, I encourage you to choose this one.

 

The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak

Set in Germany in the throes of World War II, this is a deeply moving story narrated by Death, who tells of a young girl named Liesel who gets into the habit of stealing books. A foster family in Munich takes her in after losing her mother and brother, and it is her foster father who teaches Liesel to read. Her foster parents find a young Jewish man on their doorstep in the middle of one night, and over the months that they shelter him, Max and Liesel form a deep friendship.

 

Wildflowers of Terezin, by Robert Elmer

A moving and thought-provoking novel based on the true story of the courage and determination of the Danish people to save their Jewish countrymen from annihilation by the Nazis. Steffen, a quiet and gentle Lutheran pastor in Copenhagen, reluctantly agrees to help the tenacious and vibrant Hanne Abrahamsen smuggle a group of Jews out of Denmark by boat. As the resistance grows, Steffen’s faith deepens and so does his relationship with Hanne. When she is captured and taken to Terezin, a work camp located in Czechoslovakia, Steffen’s participation in the Resistance grows stronger. With themes of faith, sacrifice, love, perseverance, and brotherhood, this book is well worth your time.

 

Now, in case you are under the impression that I only read books set in World War II, here are a few more from a wider range of genres.

 

The Forgotten Garden, by Kate Morton

This is the first of Kate Morton’s writing that I’ve read, and I was captivated by the story of a young girl who appears on a wharf in Australia by herself with no idea where she came from, and fleeting memories of a woman known only as “The Authoress”. She ends up being raised by the Wharf Master and his wife, and at the age of 18 her father tells her the truth about how he found her, embarking her on a quest to find out who she is and where she came from. She assembles a few of the pieces, but is unable to put together the whole story, so after her death her granddaughter continues the journey and discovers the whole truth. Well written and easy to read, this book keeps you engaged from beginning to end. Morton does an excellent job of weaving together the mystery, giving you just the right clues along the way.

 

The House at Riverton, by Kate Morton

Like The Forgotten Garden, this book is also a mystery that weaves its way back and forth from the early 1900’s to the present. It follows the life of Grace, who as a young girl worked as a housemaid at Riverton, and tells of the unique and tragic relationship she has with the mysterious sisters of the manor, Hannah and Emmeline. The story centers on the death of a young poet at the house in 1924, and Grace is the only living witness to the event. Now that she is old, Grace decides it is time to tell the whole story of what happened, choosing to share it through recorded tapes to her Grandson. At points this book seemed a little tedious in the details, but overall it was engaging and worth the read.

 

Divergent, by Veronica Roth

This dystopian novel is similar in tone and themes to The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins (although from what I have read, Roth began her story long before THG was in print), with a strong female lead character who rises up to help lead a rebellion against the autocratic and oppressive government. Books such as these remind me of the saying “the best way for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing” (Edmund Burke). As a student of history, these stories remind me of the resilience of people and the unwillingness to submit to tyranny indefinitely. At some point, truth wins over lies. Every time. I found the storyline of this particular novel a bit lacking in depth and character development, and it was easy to guess where she was going with the story. If you enjoy this genre though, the story is clean and a quick read.

 

Orphan Train, by Christina Baker Kline

Another novel based on true events, Orphan Train is the ficticious story of two women separated by about 80 years, who meet and find out that they share a very similar life story. Molly is a young woman about to be aged out of the foster care system in 2011, angry at the world and at her life. She steals a book from the library, and has to do 50 hours of community service. She ends up helping 90 year old Vivian clean out her attic, and discovers that she was one of the 249,000 orphaned children sent west from the east coast between 1850-1930 to live and work with families who were willing to take them.  This is a quick read, and one that is full of humor, poignancy, and the realities of love and loss. It is also a fascinating historical lesson on what happened to many of the children who rode the trains, and will make you want to learn more about this time in our history.