Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Creating a Library of Good Children's Books: #3 Host a Book Birthday Party

I've been posting lately on how to create a library of good books for children. If you've missed my posts, check them our here and here.

Ever since our first daughter was little, I knew the best gifts for her: quality time and books. We have always tried to discourage family and friends from giving toys for birthdays and holidays, gently suggesting a new book or maybe spending time with our daughter instead. However, as we all know, sometimes our good intentions don't pan out.

This year we're trying something different as we plan our older daughters' joint birthday party. The hope is to encourage friends and family to help build our library rather than buy more toys.

Sounds a little nerdy, I know, but I'm hoping just a smidge that the theme (and invitation) just might encourage books for gifts rather than toys. Even more importantly, my girls are super excited about it. Cora wants to be Angelina Ballerina and Kate hopes to dress up like Amelia Bedelia :)

After much research, here are some great links to inspire you if you, too, are interested in a book-based birthday party (or if you'd just like to encourage guests to give books instead of toys):


I love these invites typed up on library cards and enclosed in yellow envelopes, reminiscent of the old pre-electronic days of checking books out at the library:

But the invitation seemed a little too adult for a child's birthday party, so I found this one instead that I'm using as inspiration. I really like how it reads: "Please bring your favorite book to add to the LIBRARY."

If you have time and crafty genes (I don't), then these invitations made with card stock and vintage paperback book covers would be pretty nifty.


I love how each of the party foods is based on a favorite children's book: If You Give a Mouse a Cookie cookies, Diary of a Worm dirt cake, One Fish Two Fish gold fish crackers, and A Bad Case of the Stripes striped birthday cake, among others.


And more book-themed foods: Scruffy's salt water taffy and Dr. Seuss's green eggs and ham. Perfect and playful for a child's party.


And for the cake, why not a storybook? This simple sheet cake decorated as an open book would be perfect.


My girls are big Fancy Nancy fans, so this parfait station would be right up their alley. FYI--Fancy Nancy loves parfaits (that's French for ice cream) :)


If you choose one book or author, then you could pretty easily create a menu based on the foods or characters in the story.

Book-Themed Parties
A Little House on the Prairie Birthday Party
The Very Hungry Caterpillar Birthday Party
A Fancy Nancy Birthday Party
An Are You My Mother? Baby Shower
A Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do You See? Birthday Party
The Cat in the Hat Birthday Party

The best link for children's book-themed parties that I've found is here, featuring 40 popular ideas.


This lovely banner is made with pages from Wind in the Willows (picked up in the Target Dollar Spot), twine, and card stock. I love the look, and it seems pretty doable.


While I don't have the knack for making this amazing book wreath, maybe you do. And the Scrabble-inspired and book illustrated banners above it are equally neat.


Not only is the banner below super-cute, but I love the framed pages from the book Are You My Mother? With cheap frames from the Dollar Store and a few inexpensive children's books from Goodwill, you could do this easily and for very cheap. 


For an even easier decoration, simply stack books and tie with a ribbon and balloon. These would make great centerpieces on tables. Simple but sweet.


These accordion paper flowers made from what else--book pages--look easy to make and add a touch of class to your party scene. Find the tutorial here.


Leave it to Martha Stewart to create these adorable miniature books suspended as garland to enhance the storybook theme. She even shows you how to make "enchanted garland" here.



Book plates, pencils, & gummy "book worms" are great favor ideas.

Bonus: The goodie bag has this lovely quote from Dr. Seuss:
"The more that you read the more things you will know. The more that you learn the more places you'll go."


 I also loved this cute idea -- Bubbles lined with book pages!


These goodie bags made from two pages of vintage children's books hand sewn together are cute, but even cuter are the nerdy "reading glasses" and "book worms" that go inside. How fun! 


Or what else would be more appropriate for a book-based birthday party than a book! These Little Golden Books are classics and very inexpensive too.


Of course, Pinterest offers a wealth of ideas. Check out my board "For the Birthday Girls" for these and other great ideas.

I hope this post inspires you to consider hosting a book-based birthday party yourself. Depending on how ours turns out, I hope to share our own book party with you next month! 

Other related posts:
 Creating a Library of Good Children's Books: #1 Establish Criteria
 Creating a Library of Good Children's Books: #2 Find Them   Frugally 

Blessings to you,

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Friday, September 13, 2013

When You're Weary, Where Does God Fit In?

I'm weary. The hours of the day blur together as I go from one task to the next. Mechanically. Following the routine that I know like the back of my calloused hands. 

"When my heart was grieved
and my spirit embittered, 

There are so many responsibilities, jobs, and expectations that I feel honored to do, yet I'm so tired. It seems like I'm always clamoring for rest, and when the girls' nap time rolls around, I'm finding myself sleeping too. Guilt sets in as I realize I should be using those precious minutes folding the baskets of laundry or finishing a post due in two days, but all I want to do is curl up on the couch and drift away. And I do.

I was senseless and ignorant;
I was a brute beast before You. 

It's a season, I know. This season of my life is full to overflowing. I take advantage of any and all opportunities for quiet and rest because those moments are so rare. 

Yet I am always with You;
You hold me by my right hand. 

In this season when I most want to quit everything and just lie in bed all day, I find that I crave God more and more. I actually anticipate the alarm going off at 5:15 because that means time alone in the still and quiet with Him--my Rock and my Salvation, my Comfort and Strength, my Everything. 

Every night after cleaning the kitchen, I put a clean table cloth on the kitchen table, set a vase of fresh flowers in the center, and lay out my Bible and devotional book in preparation for my morning. Why? Because I know without a doubt that I can't keep running this rat race without Him. No amount of coffee or chocolate will sustain me.

You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward You will take me into glory.

And while my body aches and my mind races with all the yet-to-be-completed tasks on my neverending to-do lists, each morning I'm seeing the beauty in the chaos as God draws me ever closer to Him. 

Whom have I in heaven but You?
And earth has nothing I desire besides You. 

While at times I throw myself a pity party (because surely no one has it as rough as me), once I've "sobered up," I realize that I've wasted valuable time and energy when I could have turned it all over to Him. As my world spins erratically out of my control, I'm finding myself drawing ever closer to God because His constant presence, His never-changing quality grounds me.

My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart
and my portion forever.

So I'm searching --
 Not for a drug to help me escape
 Not for a school to send my children to so I can rest
 Not for a new TV show to dull my senses
 Not for a book to get lost in
 Not for a cure to all my ills and woes

No, I'm searching for the One who alone will fulfill me. I'm seeking His presence, His will for me, His arms of comfort and peace, His perfect rest. 

Those who are far from You will perish;
You destroy all who are unfaithful to You. 

The journey is long and grueling -- like a treadmill set to the highest incline. But I'm trudging on, slowly but surely, because I know who holds me in His hands, and He's crazy about me.

But as for me, it is good to be near God.
I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge;
I will tell of all Your deeds." 

Psalm 73:21-28

Do you know today that God is crazy about YOU? He is, and when you feel weary and overwhelmed with cares and responsibilities, He wants you to run to Him because He loves you.

Praying God's blessings for you today no matter your season,

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Thursday, September 5, 2013

Creating a Library of Good Children's Books: #2 Find Them Frugally

Last week I shared with you how to establish criteria for building a library of good books for children. Once you've determined the kinds of books you want for your children, then you need to find them! 

First of all, I would recommend sitting down and making a list of specific books and authors you're looking for. Otherwise, when you're out looking, you will become overwhelmed by all the choices and may pick a few that don't meet your criteria at all.

Here are some great book lists that I've used for building our library:

But finding a good book list is just the starting point. Unless you have a photographic memory (I do not), then when you're out hunting for good children's books, you will inevitably forget the titles and authors on these lists. 

That's why I recommend 3 things:

(1) Print out your book list or jot down a few titles & keep them in your car or purse.

(2) Plug titles into the "Notes" section on your phone. 

(3) Make a Goodreads shelf specifically for books for your children. There's a Goodreads app for your phone, so you can access these books while out and about.

My Goodreads Shelf of Books-For-My-Girls

Now when you're out searching for "new" books you will have an idea of what you're looking for and not just pick up something that looks good.

#1: Make a book list!

#2: Find your books!

As a book hoarder, I love browsing at Barnes & Noble, but thoughts of paying full price for a book give me the shivers.

Here are a few of my favorite sources for finding good children's books for a steal:

Yard Sales
Unless I have a specific item I'm hunting for, I don't frequent yard sales very much right now. However, they are an excellent source for children's books. I am always amazed the books people get rid of and for ridiculously cheap prices. For instance, when my oldest was 1, I found the complete set of Little House on the Prairie books in perfect condition for $5 at a yard sale. 

Library Book Sales
This year I attended my first ever library book sale with our oldest daughter. All I can say is A-MAY-ZING! Our public library offered a paper sack full of books for $5, so for 5 bucks you could take home as many books as you could cram into the bag. You can't beat the price! 

One thing I learned though: Get there early! I saw a woman with a sack full of American Girl books. I hate I missed those! Next time I'll be there before the sale starts.

Used Bookstores 
People tend to hear "used books" and think moth balls and dust, but I'm here to tell you that used bookstores are a book lover's best friend. Just because something is "cheap" doesn't make it "lesser than." It just means a good deal and a little extra pocket change. So, don't bypass a used bookstore because of their reputation: usually the prices are great, the quality above-par, and the variety excellent.   

However, with SO many books in one location, you can easily get overwhelmed and completely forget who you are, why you're there, and what you're looking for. I call it "used bookstore amnesia." It's a real malady, people! That's why having a book list is essential.
Goodwill & Other Thrift/Consignment Stores
I've never been much of a thrift store shopper, but clothing children is expensive and thrift & consignment stores are my favorite shopping places. Did you know you can buy books there too? Yes, yes, you can, and for a fraction of the price of a brand new book.  

Next time you're out thrift store shopping, take your book list and scrounge around in the children's book section. You just might find  a few gems. I've bought numerous Five in a Row books at our Goodwill. 

Free & Cheap Books on Kindle 
I'm a diehard paperback girl. While I've read a few books on my iPhone and laptop, I prefer turning pages and highlighting key thoughts. However, since there are apps for reading on virtually any device imaginable, it only makes economic sense to be aware of the free books out there. 

At Amazon you can download FREE books, including classics like David Copperfield and Jane Eyre among others. Other e-options with a good selection of classics for children include Project Gutenberg &

Amazon using Swagbucks
I've been using Swagbucks for years now, and if you aren't familiar with Swagbucks but like new books as much as I do, then you need to sign up. It's free and easy. Every time you type a search into the Swagbucks search bar, you have an opportunity to earn bucks. Those bucks accumulate and you can cash them in for gift cards to Amazon (or other stores like Starbucks and Target). There are other ways to earn bucks, but I only use the search bar and earn between $20 and $40 worth of gift cards for Amazon a year. That means free money for FREE BOOKS! 

Other Options
My Facebook friends and fans also mentioned these places for finding good children's books:

Other than Dolly Parton's free books from birth -- We have this awesome program in TN, but I'm not sure if it's available to residents from other states, I haven't had any experience with the others. But those are options you might check in to as you start building your library of good children's books. 

What about you? Where do you find your favorite children's books? What advice would you give a novice book hunter looking for good books for a good price?

This post contains affiliate links. Thanks for supporting our family's library!

Other Posts in This Series:
Creating a Library of Good Children's Books: #1 Establish Your Criteria

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