What We’re Reading: February 13 Edition

Enter disclaimer text We have been sent books below in exchange for our honest review. All opinions are our own.

What We're Reading





What We’re Reading: February 13

A Couch for Llama by Leah Gilbert


What happens when a family loses their couch on their way home from a furniture store and a llama discovers it? Good thing it’s comfy…will the family get their couch back or will llama feel all the sads? You’ll have to read this one to find out!

(We love the adorable illustrations in this book by greeting card designer and author Leah Gilbert. That couch sure looks comfy!)

A Couch for Llama is available on Amazon and at other book retailers with an MSRP of $16.95.


Nature’s Lullaby Fills the Night by Dee Leone, Illustrated by Bali Engel

The twins love a lullaby, so it is no surprise that they enjoyed reading a book about nature shushing us to sleep. With scenes of animal parents putting their children to sleep, they connect and find it easier to go to sleep themselves.

If you think the cover is soothing (we do!), just wait until you see the pictures on the inside!

You can also pick up Nature’s Lullaby Fills the Night on Amazon and at other book retailers with an MSRP of $16.95.

Bagel in Love by Natasha Wing, Illustrated by Helen Dardik

With Valentine’s Day being tomorrow, will Bagel find a partner for the Cherry Jubilee dance? It’s not looking great, then an adorable cupcake crosses Bagel’s path.

We love this story, the illustrations and the glitter texture in the book! You might recognize author Wing from “The Night Before Kindergarten” and illustrator Helen Dardik from work with American Girl and Parents Magazine. Super sweet!

You’ll have to pick this one up! Bagel in Love is available on Amazon and at other book retailers with an MSRP of $16.95.

What are you reading this week?



Twelve Dancing Unicorns

Enter disclaimer text

When I was growing up, I remember having a fairy tale book and reading Twelve Dancing PrincessesTo be honest, I loved the story, but the fact that the sisters were locked up at night and not allowed to go out made ‘lil me mad. When I received a copy of Twelve Dancing Unicornsthe same love and madness washed over me.

Twelve Dancing Unicorns

In this gorgeously illustrated take on “The Twelve Dancing Princesses”, author Alissa Heyman had my kids and I in awe. Her words, along with Justin Gerard’s illustrations, tell the story in the light of the princesses being unicorns and the soldier as a brave little girl who sneaks to the magical gardens the unicorns inhabit at night. In the end, the unicorns are freed from the kings chains and “watchful” guards thanks to the little girl’s bravery and problem solving.

Twelve Dancing Unicorns is one of the few “long” picture books my children have sat through and truly listened to. And at the end? They both understood the moral – have a good heart and don’t do things selfishly (as the king did). At five and three, they got that. It made them sad that the unicorns were chained up, but I watched their eyes light up as the ‘lil girl accompanied the unicorns to a land where jeweled fruits (their favorite, the golden apple) and fairies and lush gardens abound, and knew they were getting the meaning of letting others live true happiness.


You can find this gorgeous book (put it on your holiday shopping list!) at sterlingpublishing.com for $14.95.

I’ve posted this review as part of a month-long blog tour about the book. Follow the Twelve Dancing Unicorns blog tour tomorrow on Jumpin Beans: http://jumpin-beans.blogspot.com/.


This story came at a great time for our family. Last week, we lost my grandma after a few years of suffering from various ailments. She was ready to let it go and be in Heaven, but was holding on for all of us. Once we finally told her it was okay, that we’d see her again, you could tell she felt released, just like the unicorns and princesses. What a beautiful coincidence.

Connecting with Animals

Disclaimer: This post contains information on a book and cd that I was sent to review. All opinions are 100% my own.

Sometimes I wish I could get inside my dogs’ brains and figure out what in the world they are thinking. There are the obvious signs of what’s what, like the slight head butt to the couch signalling “get me outside now” and the nose to knee rub to welcome me home. But, I have to admit, I think they both understand more about the family and me than we’ll ever realize.

Recently I was sent a copy of Joan Ranquet‘s Communication with All Life book. Within, Joan (an internationally renowned animal communicator) writes about how we are actually exchanging with our animals on a daily basis. They help us get through “the things” (such as death, sickness, and bad days) and share in our joys, too.

Source: JoanRanquet.com

At first, I was a bit skeptical about even opening the book (after I agreed to the review). I don’t want to come off as “the crazy dog lady”, but decided to give this a chance. And what happened was that I used the contents to let the book tell me where to go versus starting from the beginning.

I landed on page 122, a page in the chapter about setting the tone. Ranquet talks about belief on these pages – how do we “set the tone” when we’re given an expiration date or decide to adopt a rescue. I held back tears as I thought about what would have happened if we just believed the doctors when they said Wendy only had months to live and we got almost two more years (and a full remission included) with her. Those months would have been dreadful and misterable, instead, we lived, laughed, and loved out loud. It’s the same with a dog. When we took Shadow in, several people expressed concern about her shy behavior (and the fact that she’s likely part pit bull) with our kids. Almost two years later, this beautiful dog is loyal, loving, and probably more attached to our kids than we are (no lie – she paced the house looking for them when they were on vacation). If we believe what we are told from the get go and set the tone that the worst is going to happen, it might. Instead, if we set the tone to be positive, we just might get more love than we expected.

Call me a crazy dog lady, it’s okay. I really do think that my dogs and I (Greg, and the kids too) have connected, and that we communicate. We don’t necessarily need to read Joan Ranquet’s book to understand that, but it’s worth being reminded of it from time to time.


If you’re interested in learning more about Communication with All Life and the companion meditation CD, visit this page for more information.

Raising Givers

This post is a guest post by Darryl Nyznyk, author of Mary’s Son: A Tale of Christmas. Since today’s “Thankful” post is going to be about how we raise our givers, I thought this would be a perfect fit for today! There’s even a contest at the bottom. Enjoy. 

My wife and I raised four daughters through school day traumas of isolation, rejection, ostracism and dissociation, and bullying. While none of our daughters were on the receiving end of all of these hateful practices, each experienced one or more personally, and each saw them foisted upon others. It was our duty, as parents, to guide them through these experiences by teaching them how to deal with the pain, and by helping rebuild their shattered psyches after each  experience.

We found it was just as important to instill in them empathy and compassion for others suffering through the same trauma. We wanted to teach them to look less at the pain they were experiencing and more to the pain of others who they could help. Our belief was that our kids needed to learn how to give of their compassion, understanding, and love in their every day lives. Here are five basic concepts that helped us in our efforts.

1. You are a good person. One of the most important elements in a giving heart is a sense of self worth that enables a person to step away from his own problems and focus on the issues of others. To be true givers, children need to have confidence in themselves. Build their self-esteem, but not because they might be the “prettiest,” “smartest,” “best athlete,” or “most popular,” but rather because they are empathetic and compassionate people. If they cry when a person they know dies or they understand the pain when a friend gets hurt or they help a neighbor in need, it is these feelings and actions that make them good people.

2. Discuss issues of evil and sadness in the world. Getting children to sit and carry on a discussion about the issues of the day can be virtually impossible. With homework, music lessons, sports practice, electronics, friends, and every other conceivable interference, it’s difficult to find a moment to have a conversation other than “hi.” But it’s vital that we do. It  is our task to find those moments where we can say “Did you hear about …?” and “Do you think there’s anything we could (or should) do about …?” We need to ask them about any sad or evil events of which they are aware, and how they feel “we” should react. Despite the hesitation our child may express at first, the truth is that once we get them talking, we have moved them away from focus on self and to thoughts about the plight of others – an essential step in imprinting the concept of giving onto their hearts.

3. Think of someone at school who needs help. Encourage your child to think of someone at school who might need empathy, compassion, or simply a friend. Suggest they look beyond their immediate circle of friends and identify someone who might be viewed as a “geek,” a “nerd,” an outcast. Talk to your child about how that person must feel; try to get your child to try on that person’s shoes so that they understand how painful that person’s experiences are. Then discuss how your child might be able to help, even with something as simple as a kind word.

4. Talk to friends at school about those in need. Encourage your children to step up in their peer groups to convince friends not to judge those previously deemed below them. “I heard his parents can’t afford to get him good soccer shoes; maybe we can figure out a way to help. He’s a pretty good player.” “Her mother’s been really sick. Maybe we should ask her to join us and see if she needs help.” Or just plain, “She looks weird, I know, but she’s a nice person, just a little shy.”

The point here is that our child steps up and gives herself to the pain and suffering of those ridiculed by her group. Peer pressure makes this one very difficult, and a parent’s discussion about the proper approach to the peers is essential. It doesn’t require that your child take over the leadership role from the “king” or “queen” of the group, but rather that she use her subtle influence and intelligence to move the leader to compassion that the others will follow.

5. Stand up against injustice even if alone. Our children know right from wrong because we have taught and continue to teach them the difference. When they see bullying or other injustice in their schools or other social settings, they must step up to protect the weak and bullied.

The most difficult thing for the normal “non-leader” child is to become visible by asserting themselves. It’s difficult because by standing up within the group or outside the group, the child is challenging leadership and risks becoming the butt of jokes or the one who is bullied. This is why parental guidance in the art of subtlety within the group, and of strength of purpose outside the group is essential. In conjunction with that guidance, our child’s knowledge that we, as parents, have his back when he steps up, gives him the strength he needs to stand tall.

Teaching our children to give is the essence of our duty as parents. It’s an enormous undertaking, yet what better gift can we give our world than a child who “gives” herself in the fight against injustice, cruelty and inequality?

Darryl Nyznyk is a full-time storyteller and father of four grown daughters. As a parent, he began to take a hard look at the world around him – one of extreme political and social divisiveness – and as an author, he wanted to share the message with the world that he had been telling in his own home for years….a message of hope, love and faith. He is the author of Mary’s Son: A Tale of Christmas


Enter the Mary’s Son: A Tale of Christmas contest!

Comment on the post with what your favorite charity is and why. Darryl will choose a grand prize winner and match a donation of up to $100. The winner will also receive a signed copy of Mary’s Son. (Contest ends December 7.)

The Joy of Reading


As an avid reader, I am so glad to watch our children fall in love with books. A loves to read to Lil Man (or anyone who will listen), and even at her age, her comprehension skills are incredible.

We’re lucky to have a lil bookworm in our midst. It probably comes from being good models–I read to her while she was in my womb, we read to her multiple times daily, a bedtime book s a must, and she sees us read (even if it’s google reader on my phone or yahoo news on mr burgher’s computer).

Hopefully Lil Man catches on, too. He was involved in nightly reads when in my womb, but we didn’t explicitly read “I Love You, Sleepyhead!” or “Princess Baby” to my growing belly. If he hasn’t fallen asleep first, he is involved in storytime with A before bed.  I just hope we can make it more of a tradition with him, too.

Cause I gotta tell you, there is nothing sweeter than having your child climb in your lap to read you a book.

While we’re talking books, can I tell you I shed tears in my local Borders twice in the past month? The bookstore is going out of business and sadly, it is probably seeing more business than ever. Even though I have a kindle reader on my phone, there is something amazing about holding a book in your hands, bending a page you enjoy, or letting it soak up the sun (or tub suds) with you. Nothing beats that, but sadly, we are moving from the tangible to the digital. Perhaps a whole ‘nother post could come from that thought…

And…while searching out coupons, Mr. Burgher found boxes and boxes of books in dumpsters. Sad, right? As an ex-teacher (who gladly robbed Peter to pay Paul to make sure her classroom library was stellar), I would never have thrown out books! We keep adding books to our collection, posting some on freecycle, and making boxes to donate to A’s school. If you have books sitting around, pass them on, don’t throw them out! (Or I will shed some tears.)