What We’re Reading (Sept 2021)

Happy First Day of School! Many of you have probably already been back to school for a couple of weeks, or even a month, but it’s the first official day of school for us. The first day of school is the one way I struggle to separate our family from the public school schedule, but it’s one that I don’t mind following! One of the ways I plan to keep us more accountable this school year is to go back to posting a reading list for each of my kids here each month. I used to do this a few years ago, and I like the idea. Besides keeping us on track, it offers book ideas for other families. I hope it will give you ideas for books to read to/with your kids.

Read Aloud

My teens don’t really participate in our read alouds anymore. I know a lot of families encourage/require everyone to be there for them, but that doesn’t really work in our family dynamic. So when I talk about our read aloud choice each month, it is for myself, Grasshopper, and Dragonfly primarily. Sometimes Bumblebee will mill around or snuggle while we read also though.

This school year, we will be reading quite a few classics. For my birthday a couple of years ago, Will found a copy of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz that was beautifully illustrated for me. I read it to the younger kids right away, and we all marveled at the gorgeous drawings. Recently, we discovered that that book was actually part of a series of classics all with “new” illustrations done by the same illustrator, Robert Ingpen. (I say new with quotation marks because these are newer than the text, but not actually new. Mr. Ingpen has been illustrating books since the 1950s, and working on children’s books since the 70s. The set of classics that we’ve been collecting were all done from 2000-2014.) So we’ve been building up our collection of these books over the summer, and now that school’s in session for our family again, we will begin reading our new treasures. Another thing I love about these books is that each one has an indentation on the front cover that is associated with the story without giving anything away (wood tools for Pinocchio, shoes for Oz, etc). It’s such a neat touch!

This month, we are reading Pinocchio. This is Bumblebee’s favorite Disney movie, by far, and the other kids enjoy it too. They were really excited when this book showed up on our doorstep from Amazon, and we’ve been reading it inconsistently throughout the summer. But with the weather beginning to cool and more time spent inside, we will be making a much bigger effort to read it more regularly now.

In addition to the classics, we are also making our way through the illustrated Harry Potter books. If you haven’t seen those in a bookstore or on Amazon, and you’re a HP fan, I highly recommend them. Jim Kay has done an absolutely stunning job illustrating the familiar stories. We’re about a third of the way through Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone now.

Ballet Boy (17; 12th grade)

Even though the big kids aren’t participating in read aloud time, they are still reading books on their own. Ballet Boy has never been one to care for novels; he’s always preferred biographies instead. So he’ll be working his way through Church History in Plain Language. Will assigned that to him last school year, and it’s so dense that he hasn’t finished yet. This is a hefty read, but a good one if you’re interested in finding out why American Christianity is the way it is now. That may not be the point of the book, but you can definitely read it and see the path that brought us to where we are now. As we get through the school year, I may add other books to his load, but we’re going to start with just the essentials (this one is essential because Dad assigned it). Ballet Boy spends a lot of time working with Will, so his schedule involves more than just school at this point. I’m happy to accommodate that.

Scorpion (14; 9th grade)

I’m going to be assigning Scorpion a book a month, like the other kids, and he will be getting a mix of classics and modern novels, in addition to the reading required by his Khan Academy lessons. First up for him is Animal Farm, and I have a Progeny Press guide for him to do along with it.

Grasshopper (9; 4th grade)

It’s time! It’s time! Grasshopper is finally getting a chance to read Wayside School Beneath the Cloud of Doom. He’s so excited to read this book, and I’m excited to experience it with him.

Dragonfly (5; K)

Dragonfly is still a very early reader. He’s technically been able to put sounds together for a year, but when our iPad died a few months back, he fell behind on doing his Reading Eggs lessons. I bought him those Paw Patrol books over the summer, so we’re going to work on those until he’s super comfortable reading things in the “real world,” and then we’ll see where we end up with him.


Until recently, I hadn’t actually read much in awhile. I love that I’m getting back into reading novels at night, and some of my favorite authors have older books that I haven’t read yet. I just finished up a John Grisham book last month (The Guardians, which will be this month’s book club post), and I’m going to be diving into another Grisham novel this month: Sooley. This one is on the newer side, but my turn on the hold list came up, and I don’t want to miss out after so many weeks of waiting.

What are you reading this month?


Cocomelon Party!

You might remember that Bumblebee turned 3 on Sunday. He’s such a special boy, and we wanted to do something really fun for his birthday this year. One day a few months ago, he figured out how to find his own shows on Netflix (!). He had seen older brothers run the app enough to figure out to tap the “Kids” icon on the accounts screen, and then he scrolled through the show options until he found something that caught his eye. That show was Cocomelon, which is rather a big deal in the 2-4 year old market.

In case you’re not familiar, Cocomelon is an animated show with a series of songs. There’s no story, just songs. The animations are actually quite cute, and the songs vary from classic kids songs (Baa Baa Black Sheep) to original works to more modern “classics” (Baby Shark) to classic songs with new lyrics. Even though there’s no official story for the characters to participate in, it has the same characters throughout. The main little boy is a toddler named JJ, and he has Mom and Dad, along with sister YoYo and brother TomTom. Sometimes JJ goes to “school” (daycare), and he has a “teacher” there (Mrs. Appleberry) and a group of friends – Nina, Cody, Cece, and more.

Bumblebee loves it.

Will and I didn’t realize quite what a phenomenon it was until we started seeing the toys in stores, and because our boy loved the show so much, we started him a collection of the toys. One day a few months ago, I was browsing Amazon for birthday party ideas, and he peered over my shoulder and saw all the Cocomelon decorations. He immediately started saying, “Me have Cocomelon birthday!” So of course, we obliged. We purchased a basic party kit for about $24 that included a cake topper, 24 cupcake toppers, 12 ceiling streamers, a Happy Birthday banner, 16 printed balloons, and everything you needed to hang it all up. We also bought a huge (5’x7′) poster featuring the young kids of the show and a package of matching invitations. From the Dollar Tree, I bought 2 extra packages of plain balloons to supplement the printed ones.

I spent the three days prior baking cakes and making plans for the decorating of said cakes. The three days was because you need to take the time to let your cakes cool and chill with the frosting before you begin decorating, not because it was such a difficult job.

The day of the party, we hung up the big banner and blew up the balloons. So many balloons. Scorpion, Grasshopper, and I did most of the blowing up while Will and Ballet Boy worked on tying them all together into a balloon archway. We then attached the balloon archway all around the large banner. We just hung it right over our existing artwork. It was big enough to nearly cover the wall, and with the balloons added it was perfect.

We hung the Happy Birthday sign (it was one of those with a cardboard cutout for each letter, attached together with ribbon) over the hallway, so it created a kind of natural pathway from the front door to the living room, where we were holding the party. And we hung all of the ceiling streamers up using the glue dots included in our party kit. A bit of furniture rearranging in the dining room (to block off the kitchen but still provide a place off-carpet for children to eat cake) and we were ready.

I decided to make a lemon cake with a lemon curd filling because hello – who doesn’t love lemon curd? It’s hands down my favorite sweet treat. I ended up making 4 layers, but that was too many. Most of the cake didn’t get eaten at all. I also made a cream cheese icing, which I tinted green. For the watermelon stripes (Cocomelon), I used a green apple fruit rollup, sliced up. The cupcakes were just a standard chocolate, but with the same cream cheese icing.

Because Bumblebee is just 3, we kept the game simple, and only did one: Pin the Curl on JJ. This was just a twist on the classic Pin the Tail on the Donkey, but using JJ and his statement hair instead. I gave personal watermelons to the top two winners of the game.

Overall, it was probably the most successful children’s birthday party we’ve ever thrown (sorry, older kids). We will hands-down be having specific themes for our kids’ parties from now on, and won’t be afraid to spend the money on the decorations. It was so worth it!