I’ve Been A Very Bad Blogger.

What a mess I’ve been lately.

As I’m sure you’ve noticed — and as Google Analytics has so unkindly reminded me — there’s been very little posting going on around here lately. I’m really sorry; it’s (obviously) entirely my fault. To put it nicely, I’ve sort of been coming apart at the seams the last few months. There’s been some family drama, a touch of reader’s block, an onslaught of writer’s block, and a few major changes popping up on the horizon that have kept me from doing my best work. Please accept my deepest, sincerest apologies for letting you down. I’ve been working hard and hope to be at full steam again soon.

I’ve been reading virtually nonstop, but writing literally nothing. It’s funny how easy it is to just stick my nose in a book and tune everything else out — I’ve always been that way. Up until sometime in August, I was reading and reviewing a book every week, and then all of a sudden the reviews just fell off. That’s not to say I haven’t been reading. Aside from the two books I reviewed for The Book Wheel’s 30 Authors project last month, I have somewhere in the neighborhood of 5-10 books that I’ve read but haven’t shared my thoughts on. That’s doing a disservice to you, as my readers, and to myself, as someone who loves talking about what I read. Because some of these books were in my hands two months ago, I’m not sure that writing full reviews would be appropriate; I typically prefer writing a review as soon as I finish the book, when the plot, characters, and my thoughts are still fresh in my mind. I’ll have to go back, flip through the very tall stack of books, and figure out whether to review them in full or to make up the time by posting mini-reviews via Instagram instead (which would then be broadcast to my other social media profiles). When I make a decision I’ll definitely let you all know.

As for the big changes? For one, I’ve decided to go back to school one last time! I’m applying to the Master of Library and Information Science program at Rutgers and, if I’m accepted, will work toward my School Library Media Specialist certification. I’ll continue to be a stay-at-home mom until Joshua heads to kindergarten in 2016, so I’m pursuing the online program…which leads to the other change. Joshua is a very active little boy and, according to his pediatrician, needs more structure in his day, so Hubs and I have decided to enroll him part-time in preschool. He’s very excited to attend “little-kid school,” as he calls it, and will go for a few hours a day, three days a week. If he does really well and Hubs and I can afford it, we’ll send him every day. While he’s at school, I can blog or study, all the while knowing that he’s in good hands and doing some learning and growing of his own. I’ll be finishing up my studies around the same time that Joshua starts kindergarten, and I’ll go back to work full-time once I graduate (if I can find a job, of course).

Fortunately, because of the line of work I’m going into, I’ll still be spending a good deal of time around books — and will therefore be able to continue blogging! Whether I continue under Read-at-Home Mama or with a new blog remains to be seen, but I refuse to let my blog die! Not only could it continue to serve its current purpose, but I could also use it as a tool to communicate with students, parents, and school administrators.

Good things are on the horizon! I just have to keep forging ahead, and I’ll finally catch the brighter future I’ve been dreaming of!

Munchkin Monday: Double Trouble

For the last (nearly) three years, my days have consisted of lots of Evel Knievel moments…

And abstract art…

And sous chef training…

And baby model moments…

And, of course, lots and lots of cuddles and kisses!

For three years, it’s been just Joshua and me almost every day. Living together, learning together, growing together. It’s been joyous, hilarious and, at times, frustrating (because let’s face it, who enjoys discovering their toddler coloring all over their white bedsheets with a yellow highlighter?!) but I’ve relished every minute of it.

I’m assuming you noticed the title of this post, yes?

I’m not pregnant.

My sister and brother-in-law, facing some financial issues, needed to move out of their apartment and Hubs and I decided to open our home to them…which meant that their son, the adorable and crazy Landon, was coming too! Please excuse me for a moment while I pray for my sanity and the safety of my home….

Hey, where’d my phone go?! Boys!!!

In all seriousness, though, I’m happy with the arrangement. I’m rarely home alone with the boys so it’s nice to have help, and the two of them get along well. Landon’s language development is exploding as a result of listening to and repeating after Joshua, and Joshua’s starting to take more of an interest in pretend play now that he has someone to play with on a daily basis. I’m going to start working on preschool skills with both of them next month, and that way they can watch and help each other and learn together. It’s also great to have a bit more free time during the day — my brother-in-law and I switch off with the boys (he generally watches them in the mornings and I take them in the afternoons) — to focus on blogging, reading, and birthday party stuff (because we’re under 2 months away from Joshua’s 3rd birthday!). Another thing that’s great is to have more adult company around, because I tend to get a little crazy when I only have toddlers to talk to.

That’s not to say that everything is perfect! Having two 2-year-olds in the house makes for double the lack of listening ability and double the odds of mischief, but they’re toddlers. It’s to be expected. We’re in the process of setting up a play space for them in our basement, so they have another place to go when they need a change of scenery (which happens every day). I just bought them an adorable table and chair set that they can sit at and color pictures, do puzzles, read a book, build with blocks, or play with other toys. if all goes well, that space may become our homeschooling space in the future, if Hubs and I decide to do that.

So that’s where we are right now! It’s double the madness, double the giggles, double the discovery, and twice as much fun!

Joshua’s Bookshelf!: Sesame Street: The Post Office, by Sarah Albee

[This review is based on the paperback edition published by Dalmatian Press in 2011.]

So what’s it about?
Elmo wants to show his cousin a picture of a lost puppy, but his cousin lives far away and Elmo doesn’t fit in the mail slot. Big Bird suggests that Elmo should mail his cousin the picture, so they learn the process of preparing and sending mail through the post office.

What did we think of the book?
Joshua loved The Post Office for two reasons. First, it features Big Bird and Elmo, whom Joshua obviously recognizes from Sesame Street; second, it’s all about the post office and the mail, which Joshua is obsessed with! He loves waving to our mail carrier every day when he delivers the mail and he’s always going on about the “mailman trucks” (which he actually owns a Matchbox version of — it’s his favorite car!), so I knew he’d love this story. As for me, I was thrilled with all the vocabulary words (and the definitions in the back of the book!) and all of the comprehension questions on the last page. Anything that Joshua will enjoy and simultaneously educate him in some way is okay by me!

Would we add it to Joshua’s bookshelf?
Definitely! There are several companion books to this, which you may be able to find on Amazon or possibly in Target or Walmart (we found our copies in the dollar bins at Target). They’re fun little books for children to enjoy!

Click here to purchase Sesame Street: The Post Office via Amazon!

Joshua’s Bookshelf!: Sam’s Pet Temper, by Sangeeta Bhadra

[This review is based on the ARC (Advance Reader Copy) digital edition published by Kids Can Press Ltd. in 2014.]

So what’s it about?
Sam discovers how troublesome it is to have a Temper as a pet! The Temper causes all kinds of trouble for Sam at school, on the playground, and at home. Things get so bad that Sam’s mother has to pick him up from school early — she’s extremely angry and tells Sam that he must learn to control his Temper on his own and that no one can do it for him. His Temper reaches a boiling point on the playground one day and Sam figures out how to get it under control!

What did we think of the book?
The artwork in this book was stark, as it needed to be — Tempers are ugly things and the illustrations reflect that:

I really loved that the Temper became its own being apart from Sam. I was able to talk to Joshua about how his tempers look very ugly and scary as they do in the book, and that learning to control them will make them go away. He’s a bit young yet to figure that out on his own, so at this point I still let him simply ride it out until it’s over instead of making him figure out how to stop it mid-tantrum. Joshua was able to understand from the illustrations how temper tantrums can alienate children from each other, that they aren’t good to have, and that there are ways to make them stop.

Would we add it to Joshua’s bookshelf?
Definitely!! Sam’s Pet Temper is a great resource for parents and children who are dealing with tantrums. We’ll definitely be keeping a copy!

Sam’s Pet Temper will be available for purchase on September 1, 2014. Click here to pre-order a copy via Barnes and Noble or IndieBound!

Talking Fitness Thursday: For the Love of Zucchini

Over the last few months, I’ve been trying really hard to incorporate more whole foods into my diet. That became more important than ever when I was diagnosed with PCOS. My food mantra, which I picked up from Dr. K, is “high protein, low sugar, low carb.” For the most part, I think I’ve done a pretty good job about sticking to the mantra, though I have slipped up occasionally. Changing my processed food-heavy diet has definitely been a learning experience, but I’m finally finding my feet with this whole “cleaner eating” thing. The high-protein part has been easiest for me — I love chicken and turkey, and it’s been interesting to learn about new ways to cook them. The low-sugar part has been harder as I’m not a huge fruit person, and I still haven’t been able to completely let go of sweets (nor do I think I truly ever will). Of the three parts, though, the low-carb bit has been the hardest. I’ve always been a lover of bread, pasta, and potatoes; I still eat my favorite bread, but less frequently, and we’ve switched to whole-wheat pasta, but the potatoes have been the biggest issue. Saying no to baked potatoes and chips has been much more difficult than I thought it would be! I’ve been eating a different vegetable with my dinner every night, trying to adjust to the no-potato rule. I like a lot of different veggies, but I prefer most of them to be cooked. I’m always on the lookout for healthy new ways to enjoy my meals and snacks, and Pinterest has played a huge role in discovering awesome new recipes to test out with my family.

One of my favorite snacks is zucchini chips! They’re very easy to prepare and delicious when they’re done. They’re also a wonderful substitute for potato chips — much lower in carbs, preservative-free, and not fried, plus you can season them however you like to change the flavor profile. Some days I crave spicy food, so I sprinkle the zucchini with cayenne pepper; sometimes I crave barbecue, so I use a combination of paprika and chili powder; other times I just want something Italian, so I’ll dust my zucchini with garlic and Italian seasoning. The zucchini alone is like a blank slate, and it’s fun to create my own flavors!

I shared a photo of these on my personal Facebook page a while ago, and the response was surprising. I just thought I was sharing a picture, but people started asking how I’d made them. Soon after, I was getting questions about why they didn’t come out right or why they didn’t achieve a certain flavor profile. So, for today’s Talking Fitness Thursday post, I’d like to share a step-by-step photo essay on how to prepare zucchini chips!

So first things first, you need to gather your ingredients. I make two big trays at a time, and I line them with parchment paper (to keep the zucchini from sticking) which is lightly sprayed with olive oil cooking spray. Aside from that, you obviously need zucchini; I use two large ones. The seasonings you use depend on the flavor profile you’re going for — for the purpose of this recipe I’m keeping it very simple and just using seas salt, black pepper, garlic powder, and some Onion Onion I have from Tastefully Simple. (If I had any of their Garlic Garlic left, I would use it in place of the garlic powder.)

Once you’ve gathered your ingredients, preheat the oven to 300* and wash the zucchini, making sure to clear off any dirt. Dry them and then start cutting! If you have a mandoline, it will definitely save you time and guarantee uniform thinness in your slices; I personally prefer slicing them with a knife. Whichever method you choose, cut the zucchini as thin as you can so they look and taste like chips while they’re baking.

When you finished slicing the zucchini, lay them out on the sprayed, parchment-lined baking sheets and very lightly spray the tops.

Now comes the fun part — seasoning! I sprinkled on some garlic powder, then Onion Onion, followed by black pepper and finished them off with a pinch of sea salt. These chips are totally customizable so you can really use any combination that you like! The one catch — don’t overdo it. Use a very light hand with these because the flavor will intensify as they bake. Just a little seasoning will go a very long way!

After you’re satisfied with your seasoning, you have to deal with the hard part: Place the trays in the oven, set a timer for 90 minutes, and let them bake.

After about 45 minutes, start checking the chips every 15 minutes or so. As they start turning brown, they’re ready to come out…but not all of them will brown at the same time. Each chip bakes at its own pace and patience is really the name of the game. I promise they’re worth the wait.

Hello, my pretties! Get in mah belly!!!

So talk to me, everyone! What’s your favorite healthy snack?